What Naomi Klein gets wrong in her #MMIW article

So I wasn’t there, at the event to fundraise to honour MMIW. I wanted to go but other circumstances prevented me from attended.

I did, however, read the article that Naomi Klein published in the Globe and Mail.[1] It was all over my social media. Various people discussing this important, beautiful piece talking about Bella Laboucan-McLean’s “suspicious” death where she fell 31 stories from a condo that had 6 other people in the same condo who allegedly know nothing. You can read the Globe article to gain more context surrounding Bella’s death. You can also check out the page on It Starts With Us to honour Bella’s life.

Klein’s article is beautiful. It honours the life of Bella. It provides a sense of dignity to her life and the friends and family of Bella. Often times when Indigenous people reported by the media as missing or murdered, the story is often entangled with assumptions about Indigenous peoples that suggest they contributed to their own circumstances. Risky lifestyle. Criminal behaviours. Criminal associations. Homelessness. But rarely do you ever read about how colonialism plays a role in this injustice. Klein, unfortunately, mentions that Bella had no drug problem or history of depression as if the two together are a reason why other Indigenous women and girls go missing and murdered.

This is the first thing that really irritated me about Klein’s article. Not once did she mention colonialism. She does this beautiful little dance around all the issues that are a part of the colonial project. Yet, she embarrassingly fails to talk about colonialism.

Yes, it is great that Klein is finally out there speaking about the issue and supporting people who have been working in communities. Yes, I suppose it is great that a white woman whose name everyone (except for my dad)[2] knows finally writes about MMIW in a mainstream newspaper.

But it wasn’t until the end of the article that I just knew that this was just another article written by another white woman who had feelings that all of a sudden the rest of the world needs to care about…

Klein writes,

“A different word filled my head that day. ‘Shame.’

Shame that this city had failed Bella.

Shame that so many of us still aren’t talking. At least not enough. Are failing to be witnesses – as fully as we can be – to the ongoing catastrophe of murdered and missing indigenous women.”[3]


When I think of shame, I think of people only responding to something or a lack of something out of guilt.

White guilt? Do we really need more white people feeling guilty or shame toward Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women and girls? Do their feelings really matter in this discussion? No. They don’t. If the only reason you are going to respond to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women is because of shame or guilt, then I don’t think there is a complete appreciation of the crux of the issue. You can speak out about the issue and you can write all the articles you want but if you are not talking about how colonialism and all of its policies is damaging the waters, ruining traditional territories, and perpetuating the ongoing violence against Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women/girls, then you are remaining complicit, hiding behind your white guilt.

I am tired of white women feeling guilty for what is happening to Indigenous women and girls across Turtle Island. I am tired of feeling angry and having to constantly read about white women not naming the issue. Maybe it is because they benefit from colonialism and all of its racism, heteropatriarchy too? How do white women remain complicit in maintaining colonialism?

Even as Klein acknowledged Melina, Bella’s sister, and her anger, Klein erases that anger by calling out the shame that the city has caused.

I’m pretty sure it was the lack of police investigation that caused that shame. You know the same police that are supposed to protect us. And the centuries of colonialism and all of its policies informed by white guilt toward Indigenous peoples. You know, that same white guilt that informs the white saviour complex and all of its policies that allow these injustices to continue to occur, and remain unquestioned.

We don’t need your guilt or your shame.

We need your anger too.

Update: This similar post was shared with me on my FB page for Kwe Today, from Lynn Gehl on Naomi Klein, “yet as an Indigenous Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe she let me down.”

[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-a-cree-woman-fell-to-death-and-no-one-saw-anything/article22167039/

[2] To my dad’s defence, he doesn’t really read the Globe. But if I was him, I would see why he doesn’t read the Globe.

[3] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-a-cree-woman-fell-to-death-and-no-one-saw-anything/article22167039/

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