100 Dolls to promote a vision of the Aboriginal women who are missing or have been murdered, to one of dignity and honor. British Columbia must stop housing conditions that are conducive to Native Women being hunted down and killed.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Indigenous Women's Empowerment Day

I invite you to attend this event, share some stories and be a part of the change in how society views Aboriginal women.

Notes from Harsha Walia's email:

The Power of Women to Women Project will be hosting a press conference and community speak-out tomorrow, Tuesday March 20th, in response to the expected closure of DEWC's emergency shelter in the coming weeks.

Women of the Downtown Eastside community have been sleeping at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre (DEWC) since November 19, 2006 because of a lack of safe and appropriate shelter and housing for women in the community. Community members, with the commitment of the Elders Council, demanded that DEWC to remain open past its regular business hours because the DEWC is the only community space for women and children that is open seven days a week, and does not have limitations on length of stay.

Averages of fifty women are using the centre each night to sleep.Women have made it clear that they believe the only real viable and dignified solution to end the cycles of violence, discrimination, substance use, poor health conditions, family separation, child apprehension, and social isolation is for government at all levels to commit to safe, secure, supported, and affordable housing for women.

Accordingly, the following demands have been put forward:

- Safe, supported, and long-term affordable housing for women be made available immediately- Welfare rates be increased 50% not just $50
- Community-based emergency safe spaces, such as the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre whose funding ends on MARCH 31, 2007, receive funding to operate on a 24-hour basis with adequate and private facilities for women- including storage, proper beds, and food.

We thank you for your support and feel free to get in touch with questions, feedback, suggestions etc.

Also, please find below further information on the crisis in women's housing.

Harsha WaliaEmail: project@dewc.ca
Tel: (604) 681-8480 x 234
Fax: (604) 681-8470


There are an increasing number of poor women, homeless women, women who are at risk of violence, and women affected by HIV/AIDS in Vancouver.

Cuts to income assistance, legal aid, women's centres, attacks on women's advocacy and support services, the lack of childcare support, rising costs of living and housing, and low-income labour all have had devastating impacts on women.

For example, with the June 2002 Employment and Assistance Act and Act for People with Disabilities, approximately 16,000 women have been removed from the social assistance in BC.

At the federal level in the past year, we have seen the lack of implementation of a universal childcare program that makes it nearly impossible for women, particularly single mothers, to seek employment.

One-third of BC welfare recipients are single-parent families, 88% headed by women.

Homelessness for many women is also an initial solution to unsafe housing and homes. These women leave their homes because of physical and/or sexual violence and exploitation. Safety and privacy are the primary concerns of homeless women.

According to the 2005 GVRD Homelessness Count, there has been an increase of 60% in the number of homeless women since the 2002 Count, with shelter beds available for no more than 50% of homeless women.

Overall, the number of homeless people has doubled to approximately 2,174 people in 2005.

It is estimated that the rate of rapid gentrification leading to the Olympics will triple the number of homeless in Vancouver. The number of people at-risk of homelessness in the region is extraordinarily high: 126,500 people at-risk of homelessness in 2001.

We believe that the cycles of violence, discrimination, substance use, poor health conditions, family separation, child apprehension, and social isolation of women are the direct result of various government policies that perpetuate conditions of poverty for women.

One such government policy- at all levels of government- is the lack of safe, secure, supported, and affordable housing for women. Despite the evidence from independent and government sources that indicate the crucial need for housing for women, governments have been slow to respond.

In fact, the opposite trend is being witnessed: Between 2003 and 2005 there was a net loss of 415 housing units for low-income singles, according to PIVOT research.

One in five open lodging house rooms in Vancouver have been sold or put up for sale since January 2006.

At the same time, many existing units are in danger of closing due to rising rental rates and deteriorating conditions.

With accelerating rates of gentrification leading to 2010, an estimated 1600 units of housing for low-income singles will be lost.

Join the women in the Downtown Eastside and Power of Women to Women Project at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre to ensure safe, secure, supported, and affordable housing for women.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

So, it's 2:01 AM. I am still awake, the night before the big "Candle Light Vigil". I always get nervous whenever I do a big doo, and this is no exception.

I really tried to be calm and collected about this event. There are thoughts going through my mind right now, which make it very hard not to be frazzled. First, the questions to which there are no answers. Like, who will show up? Will this reach to a great audience - for that is what the idea of raising awareness is to accomplish. I would hate to think that 10 people will show up, or worse - no one.

Second, will the speakers show up? If the speakers did not show up but the audience did - then that would be somewhat easier.

Ahhh, my life has been very busy with this project, as with my other projects. I believe in what I do and trying to get others on board, you just never know. I sometimes do question my involvement - for it has been asked of me already - what right do I have?

Again - I will answer this question, with one simple fact, that being born an (obvious) Aboriginal women - a First Nations Cree women from Sturgeon Lake, Alberta - I was born into an oppressed position. I did not know this growing up, and it was so easy to not see it. I was not privileged, and yet I am very privileged.

I only have to think of my sister. She is dying, of colon cancer. She is suffereing horribly. And on Monday she called me with a heart wrenching plea for help. I hated to hear her talk like that, and for the life of me - there was little I could do.

Is this what "others" think of Aboriginal women when they are confronted with the pleas of Aboriginal women? The problems are so big and so huge, that when you hear the plea for life, for dignity, for respect, how can you solve this problem?

I will never forgive those who treated my sister poorly, for she has not received respect, nor given dignity. I hate that she is viewed as less than those who were treating her, and if this is her last chance at life, it breaks my heart to think there was nothing I could do.

What I wanted to do, was to get to Alberta, and I wanted to tape her on my video camera. Why? Because (when) she does die, I want her to tell her own story, to be able to voice her pain and anguish to those who did not listen to her. I want to expose those in society who saw her as a "druggie" or a "street person", and only remember her identity with contempt.

If they only considered what she went through. The burden she was given was never a fair trade for her participation in society, when she did not ask for this, and she did not deserve this, and she is being unfairly judged by this.

For my sister, my lovely, beautifuly sister Cynthia, I love you. Everything I do in this struggle is for everything you gave me, which at this point, seems more than what I am able to give you in return.

To all the baby Aboriginal girls being born, privileged or not, who are automatically given this burden by their identity, is what I want to change. I carry in my heart the love I have for my sister who is loved, and with the life she has and the life she didn't have, I put foward a vengence
for some retribution for a better memory, more understanding, more empathy.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Since June 2006

The work continues. I am now at UBC. I hated it for the first month. I felt totally out of my element. I thought for sure this is what I wanted, that this was the path for me. Things are a bit better, where I am not so lost and confused, but neither do I have any strong committment to UBC.

I got some of my fellow students in my Women STudies class to help me organize a film premier called "Highway of Tears" with Amnesty International. Wait. I forgot to add that this summer I worked doing some incredible things.

First - I worked at Postive Women's Network. This organization deals with HIV/AIDES positive women. I worked as a "Retreat Organizer", which was coordinating a three day retreat for the Aboriginal women members.

I had a great time, and from what I read (completed retreat evaluation forms), the women also had a great time. I had participation from the Aboriginal community with guests coming in to share stories and laughter and song. I continue to see these "positive" women in the work that I do, and pray for each that they continue to find the strength to survive day to day. However, the one thing that became so apparant, was that survival also include some laughter. My goodness, how sad it was that there is not enough laughter in the day.

I am guilty of this also, where I become so ingrained in my deep thoughts on how to attack the many different concerns, that I forget to laugh.

Second, I also worked the Canadian Jewish Congress. Which I am glad I did. You cannot know for sure anything until you know for sure (pretty wise of me huh?). I do support the Jewish Community on many different issues but not on everything. And since I do not want to get into a political rant about this particular subject, I would rather leave it be.

However, they created an opportunity, allowing me to research a book they were presented with, which was disturbing to my core. It was regarding one man's rant about First Nations/Aboriginal people, particularily, in British Columbia. Do not forget, there were many, many Aboriginal women who were killed in BC, and this one man created 10,000 copies of his flith, tainting others with his ilk. I still have no idea what to do with this book, but something will be done in the near future. I continue to support the Jewish Community on many issues. Within their own "Jewish" community, there is not 100% consensus on all issues, so I know it's with respect that they accept my thoughts.

Ok, so, the retreat went fabulous. I started school at UBC. I organized the film premier for "Highway of Tears", and now I am working at BC Women's Hospital organizing the Candle Light Vigil (see poster below). There were lots of other things, but that is a generalized view of my life. Unless you want to know about my kids, who are fabulous!

They are little sprites, full of life and mishieviousness, which makes me smile. My eight year old is a wise old man, who feels others emotions and takes them on as his own. Since he was a baby, he was so nurturing, and in preschool, understood that people had emotions which he was somehow able to "see". My five year old reacts to situations like he was experiencing it himself. The most recent film, Superman, there is a scene where a mom, dad and a young boy get stuck on a boat which goes under water, he broke down and started crying so hard. I didn't know this was in the movie, and was a bit angry at myself for letting that into his mind. But, we talked about it, and this is just how he is. He cries at sad cartoons (in bad attempts at being funny). They are both so much like me.

I hope to see as many people attend this Candle Light Vigil. But will be happy if at least 100 people show up.


The work continues...................................

Candle Light Vigil

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Woman's War Cry

Angela Sterritt was a young woman who made a presentation yesterday as part of the First Nations Program within the World Peace Forum 2006. Another woman was Annita McPhee who's passion showed with her clear, very concise, unrehearsed presentation of colonization and it's war like effects.

I did not get Annita recorded - but I damn sure wish I did. It's hard not to get angry when you hear the injustices from such insight, said and given with such conviction.

These were Angela's words:

I would like to thank the Musqueam People and their ancestors for having me on their territory Today. And I want to thank the organizers of this event for inviting me to speak today. It is an honor to be here today. Hamy’ya.

Today we come together to embrace in the idea of peace, but we also come together to embrace in opposition the current forces of colonization, racism, classim, sexism, and agism.

We embrace in oppostion the violence inflicted on us and the occupation of our lands.

Some people may think this globalization is a new threat that has ravaged the lands and lives of many, but to us, to indigenous people, it is nothing new, it is colonization that has expanded, developed, and exploited more.

In all the world we see injustice, we see war, we see greed. This is what we want to end. We want to reclaim our freedom. Peace. How can we imagine peace when our territories are occupied by a foreign and violent government that began its stay on our lands with the fearfull idea that they needed to oppress us in order to make their place in society.

Claiming that they did not conquest us but came to a peaceful understanding, set out the type of war the canadian government has waged on us for the last 200 years. A war that has attempted to kill indigenous people through cultural genocide, assimilation, massive sexual and physical abuse, isolation, genocide, imprisonment and criminalization.

The legacy of this occupation, and imposition of the Canadian judicial system on Indignous lands and people is shameful as we see the high number of Indigenous peoples in the prison system, beaten, bruatalized, raped and killed by police forces and as we see an over-representation of Indigenous children in the wardship of the ministry and homeless. Indignoues youth who escape the iron hands of the Canadian judical system continue to be oppressed on their own traditional territories through environmental and economic racism.

Youth who stand up for their rights are targeted and criminalized. Indigenous youth, in particular girls are victims of contemporary Canadian society which views them as disposable. This has become more and more evident with the growing number of murdered and missing Indigenous girls along hwy 16 and more generally across Canada. This state of violence against Indigneous women, men, youth and children is a deadly serious issue that we, indigenous people are tackling nationally.

The government claims that canada is a peacful country with a vast track record of human rights and environmental standards. Other countries have talked about canada as the ElDorado or the paradise of the world. But welcome to a world where poor indigneous women and girls are forced into the sex trade due to extreme poverty and forced to give up their children because they cannot feed them. Welcome to the reality, much different than the claim of peace. There are more children in the ministry today then the totally number of indigneous children in residential school.

This ugly face of colonization rears its head more forcefully today and it is the indigneous women and girls that bear the brunt.

The colonial government that committed atrocities against our people, put us on reserves, in residential school, and committed genocide are the same government that continues to set racist social policy in an attempt to keep us locked up, locked up in state abuse, locked up in fear, locked up in prison, locked up in beaurocractic systems and locked up in poverty.

The war on indigneous women and children in canada is like the war waged on all other nations of the world, if they keep us locked up they can take our rights, take our land, and take our traditional roles. Keeping us caged, also works to produce a symbol of the arbitrary ability of the federal government ofCanada to repress the legitimate aspirations to liberation of indigenous peoples within its claimed boundaries.

To quote Gail K. Horii of the Strength in Sisterhoodsociety “Too many Aboriginal youth, women and men languish in penitentiaries, prisons, jails, remand centers and holding cells across this country and in this province. Too many are brutalized by policing agencies. To consider that finding respite from concrete cells -- to take comfort in a ceremony of elders is further punishable by shackling is beyond vindictiveness. It is cultural genocide at best. This is only one example of many in which the colonial forces that be, continue to suppress our constitutional right to self-determination, our human rights and our right to be free without colonial molestation. More recently the solicitor general has began talks about the building of further prisons for our people, the so called “segregated jails”. We see this further accommodating of Indigenous people in prisons as contradictory to so called efforts to lower the number of Indigenous people in jail. It is ourgoal to free our people from this racist and oppression system not make the prison system more“Aboriginal friendly”. Simialrily, the youth jail has recently boasted of its use of “aboriginal” art in the youth jail. Is the use of the art an attempt to make the prison institution more culturally relevant toIndigneous people? This is sick. The entire prison system needs to start spenidng its resources on dealing with its systemic racism instead of making the prison more accomadating for Indigneous people. When will the police admit the wrongs.

To quote Gail K. Horii of the Strength in Sisterhoodsociety again “It does not go unnoticed by the international community how this government has quickly seized and copied the totems and artwork ofAboriginal, Metis & Inuit cultures, how freely this government utilizes these assets to promote beautiful British Columbia while they lock up and brutalize their First Nations’ peoples”. She continues, “If a face of every missing Aboriginal youth and woman and a face of every Aboriginal, Metisand Inuit person behind bars accompanied every CoastSalish, every Haida, every Metis symbol and every“inunnguaq” published from now until 2010, perhaps then, this government would be shamed enough to treat every arrested and incarcerated Aboriginal, Metis &Inuit person with dignity, with respect and would grant them equal rights before and under the law".

In some Indigenous communities, in what is know called Canada, children’s bodies are covered with sores from contaminated water sources(Kectewan and Kanawake for example). Other youth see their sacred sites being bulldozed in order to make way for development (Skwek’welk’welt, Cayoosh Creek). More and more corporations are entering our communities and ignoring the national laws that our people have fought relentlessly for decades. Youth that challenge destructive corporate operations such as logging, mining, pipelines and dam projects on their territories are forced on the very margins of societies.

To silence Indigenous people, and to create divisions among us, corporations offer programs and sponsorships to Aboriginal organizations, bands, and individuals. This is an attempt to ‘even out’ their unethical and devastating practices. So corporations like Weyerhauser, Shell Canada and Encana corporation, who are responsible for destroying a number of Indigenous communities give money to the Aboriginal Achievement Awards and other organizations and work to co-opt the support of Indigenous people who have critiqued and resisted their destructive activities and developments.

So this makes it difficult for is to educate youth and create an awareness about how corporations suppress our rights, and devastate our lives and land, and violate constitutional and human rights. While the government locks up our people and perpetuates oppression and demonstrates their colonial occupation on Indigenous lands, corporations work with that government to pollute minds and life onIndigenous lands.

There is hope, we have to come together and not get sucked up into the divisions or into individualistic notions of power.

Although the issues above are vast, we understand that all are linked to a colonial legacy that governments and corporations work to continue today. We know that through networks, campaigns and actions, change will come - slowly but step by step, if we are strategic, surely.

Each of the campaigns I discussed were initiated and carried out just by one or two people and the force of movement behind each has been immense, we plan to meet with different Aboriginal organizations who have received corporate sponsorship in an attempt to get them to seek and receive ethical sponsorship.

On the prison front, we have received support from pockets of people, every day and the movement to change that system is growing. It is never a hopeless situation; we just need to keep on moving, exposing injustices and building support in order for the movement and change to continue. I have heard some say you cannot change the system or people, but that’s what we have been doing and will continue to do.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Peaceful Art

This was a huge event! The Peace Walk, led by the Indigenous People of this land, which I didn't get on print. However, these pics were part of the procession, thousands of people took to the streets!

I liked pic #2...for it was my own artistic view of societies apathy. I shouldn't expect that everyone would march - for however big it was - this is a city of almost 3 million people, and I would guess to say that only about 0.0001 percent of the population showed up??? Maybe even less than that, i'm no mathematician. This poor woman - out to enjoy her day of lazing about in the sun, has provided the model for socieites apathy. I doubt she will ever know.

I don't even want to tell you what the artist said about the huge phallus. I am curious to know if anybody has their own thoughts of her artwork?

Fun times.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Today, June 21st, 2006, I picked up my first University Degree, I mean, it's really I half of a degree, since it's an associates, but stilllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

I had my two boys with me and they were none too pleased to have to be with me always (they wanted to run around the place, which they did...) ....but they were a couple of sweet kids and we had many things to do that day, after this graduation, which they did and they did well, I was very proud of them.

Sooo, now that I am at this point in my life, I feel like I have established a good foundation on which to go forward with. I do know what my plans are, and once I am complete, will be a momentous occasion. I have it in my sight what is my goal, and to be truthful, I'm glad. I don't have to guess so much about what plans I have to make for the future. I like plans, even if they don't work out, it's a starting point.

One half of a degree - one half more to go, and then........................................................?

That will be continued.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gladys Radeck

June 20th, 2006 these pics were from tonight where I spent the evening with Gladys Radeck and her family at her home. Her newest grandchild, Meleeka or Angelica - whatever they decide - was born this very morning. I was invited to join their welcoming feast of take out chinese food (everyone was super tired from staying for and up for the long long delivery process), which the chinese food was absolutely incredible. I gobbled down a whole plate full of yummy food.

I was super amazed at how quick this young woman of 17 was in and out of the hospital and tonight, was at home joking with the family, and being - well 17. Her and her partner were very happy, and looked very cute getting all snuggly.

Gladys was involved in a human rights case against Tinseltown and their Security Company against Natives and Handicap individuals. Gladys uses a prosthetic, which an old one has been turned into a funky backyard design - I had to take the picture! Gladys won her case and has been responsible for forcing some cultural sensitivity training for those responsible.

I don't want to minimize by saying something glib - like "good show" Gladys - or "about time". I do not know the kind of ill treatment Gladys received, for she was forcibly removed from the premises while on her way to get a starbucks coffee.

The story this woman has to tell, is of a life full of many such trials and tribulations. She is very sensitive to the treatment received by others, under any circumstances, and she has proven that she is not afraid to make a call on it if she feels her Charter rights have been infringed in any way.

This is very important. For on the one hand, you have this fierce advocate who lives by the sword (so to speak), and yet can still easily die by it. Dancing on such a sharp knife causes much pain and anxiety, for it's a constant dance to stay safe.

I will be speaking more with this amazing woman, about what it has taken up to now to survive the harsh reality of her life. She has great plans for continueing her advocacy, her heart knows the pain of many abuses sufferred by those who do not understand.

I will be working with her to get a beautiful story based on the fundamentals of what it has taken Indigenous woman since time immemorial to survive.

There are many other updates, but I had to get this picture in. I loved that leg!