Sorry Ms. Christie Blatchford but you are not writing about Aboriginal culture…


Over the last little bit, with the rise of the Idle No More movement, I have had plenty of things to think about, to feel, and to even ponder about what I should write about. I was itching to write because what helps me in times like these is writing. Just as stated in this blog written by Eric, The Normalization of Murder
I was enraged. I still am. Since the shooting I have been struggling with my emotions. Normally, I try not to write publicly when rage hits – it so often leads to words I regret. But, days later, I am still raging and need an outlet. Writing is so often that for me. And, as Audra Lorde reminds us, anger often needs to be voiced and has a particular power and transformational energy. As Tuck and Yang remind me, sometimes we need to be more impatient with each other to ensure decolonization happens.”
Very nicely said.
Yet this blog won’t be about murder or the violence that was committed against the children and adults who lost their lives this past week in the states. This blog won’t even be about the Idle No More movement. This blog won’t even be about the intense emotions that I feel when I think about how our PM is ignoring Chief Spence’s hunger strike. 
It will be about my displeasure for the continuation of the stereotypical image either in mainstream media, every day discussions, or even classroom lectures on the culture of Aboriginal people. 
I can tell you as an Indigenous woman that culture has never been discussed properly or given a platform to be properly discussed in the classroom, in the media, or in every day discussions. As a criminology student, my peers are forced to discuss (sometimes awkwardly) the plight of Aboriginal people and not even with adequate education or backgrounders either before they attend class or attend university. As an individual walking down the street, I hear the racist slurs hurled toward me with futility. I have grown accustomed to the racism, the ignorance, and the stereotyping I experience on a daily basis as an Indigenous woman; they are just habits of every day people in my every day life. 
However, I would like to stress the point of my experiences. With these habitual experiences, I am not vilified for simply being a woman but also an Indigenous woman. I am not criticized for being who I am as a person. Rather, I am condemned for the group of people I belong too. It is not an assault on one person but the millions of people who have been here before me and who will come after me: it is an assault on generations of people. 
This assault happened again today after I was finished reading Christie Blatchford’s nightmare of an article after the recent release of Oppal’s Missing Women’s Commission Inquiry. Ms. Blatchford decided to take it upon herself to comment on this report, which I highly doubt she read in its entirety since she complained about the 1,448 page report. In fact, it seems that she only read the first few pages because she casually mentions that these women *might* actually be human. 
Ms. Blatchford writes, “[Oppal’s] worthy intentions are evident in the report’s title (Forsaken) and the sophomoric collage of words (“joyful, brave, loved, compassionate, mother, caring,” etc., etc.) that adorn the cover and are meant to recognize the murdered women as the complete and complicated human beings they were.
I bolded parts of the above quote because this is her ignorance of the fact that these women went missing and/or eventually murdered because of the fact that policing agencies did not recognize them as “worthy victims.” And what does Ms. Blatchford mean about complicated? Last time I checked, all of our lives could be complicated at any point in time and with varying degrees. Yet, these women lived lives that were ignored and swept under the rug like dirt meant to be ignored by the policing agencies themselves. It is about time that we, as a society, demand the respect and humane treatment for women and girls especially those caught in the patriarchal, imperialistic system we like to call our criminal justice system (In another post, I refer this system as a system of injustice; rather than a system of justice because it is clear indication with this report that our justice system is not a *gasp* justice system).  
When it comes to the policing agencies themselves, the reality is that these women’s lives were dismissed because the police did think “they were transients prone to just disappearing.” It was not assumed, not in the first instance but in the multiple instances after the first instance. That is the way it was. There is no grey area. Even though Mr. Oppal stressed this may have been unintentional, it was not. He even stated that it was the systemic bias in the institutions themselves. I know that Christi Blatchford favours Canadian institutions and would rather have Aboriginal people charged or in jail as opposed to receiving justice themselves, because I wrote about it here. Yet when a report such as this stresses it was systemic bias that translates to deeply embedded practices and policies which ultimate means these practices and policies have to change! Not yesterday but today!
Ms. Blatchford goes on to say that these institutional changes will cost Canadians too much money. She writes, “sweeping institutional change that would, if implemented, cost the moon,” However, she fails to address that sustaining prisons/penitentiaries actually cost more per individual than making such changes as highlighted in the report itself. In fact, these costs continue to rise each year. So why not offer positive change to the systems that continue to target and cause more harm than good to Indigenous peoples themselves? It is after all the policing agencies themselves that are offered a great amount of discretion of who they will investigate as evident in this report and in Ms. Blatchford’s article. Note: I am not saying that these women should have been inside the justice system, although many of them would have been if the policing agencies so casually ignored their families/friends call for help. Rather I am highlighting the fact that the policing agencies used their discretion to ignore the missing and murdered women. 
The really interesting part about her article is that she totally undermines the importance of Aboriginal elders that Oppal’s report recommended to those who read it. This is a clear indication that Ms. Blatchford is in fact not an expert on Aboriginal culture and does not have a clue what she is talking about when she writes about the “the crisis that is the broken state of Aboriginal culture.”
In fact, the report eloquently states the following on page 23 of Volume 3, 
“Ongoing challenges include ensuring there are enough resources in Aboriginal communities to deliver….culture-based programs that recognize the importance of cultural awareness and Elder wisdom.” 
So the truth is that the Aboriginal culture that Ms. Blatchford talks about in her article is not the culture of Aboriginal people. Her article is an assault on a group of people who have been fighting for their cultural rights over the past decades which have been taken away from them due to residential schools in the past and the institutional violence that continues today. Her article is not what Aboriginal culture involves. As an Aboriginal woman who practiced her culture growing up and is striving to re-learn it from those around me, I can tell you, that her picture of what Aboriginal culture entails is not Aboriginal culture. This article and much like her other articles written on Aboriginal people are ill-informed and for the most part, ignorant and racist. 
I cannot stress this enough: this article that I am referring to in this post is demonstrative of this ignorance and racism. 

When referencing the specific profiles of Aboriginal women in Oppal’s report, Blatchford writes, “these profiles paint a ghastly portrait of a culture that is pathologically ill.” No, Ms. Blatchford, these profiles paint a picture of institutional failure and institutional violence committed against a group of women not for being an individual. Rather, the violence committed against these missing women for belonging to a specific group: Aboriginal women. 
Perhaps Ms. Blatchford was correct when she wrote, “Commenting on the tragic state of Aboriginal culture wasn’t Mr. Oppal’s mandate. Neither is it the job of the child-welfare inquiries. And let’s be frank: There is little appetite, either in institutional Canada or among Canadians, for the full conversation.” Mr. Oppal did not comment on Aboriginal culture because the lived realities of suicide, alcoholism, and violence (just to name a few) is not our culture.  And conceivably, that little appetite in institutional Canada or among Canada, is due to the systemic racism and systemic bias in mainstream media, the classroom, and our everyday lives as Indigenous peoples, especially, the racist/ignorant assaults committed by Ms. Blatchford herself against Aboriginal people. 

The big awful picture that Ms. Blatchford refers to in her article is this continued racism that institutional Canada and Canadians so habitually turn a blind eye to, or overtly ignore. 

And Ms. Blatchford herself is a culprit to this horrendous party. 

References:

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