Aboriginal women launch their own anti-violence campaign: Goar

Carol Goar – Toronto Star – October 22, 2014 (originally published on Oct 21)

Canadian indigenous leader Sylvia Maracle
Sylvia Maracle outwits or out-waits anyone who stands in her people’s way, writes Carol Goar. Image: Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres

There is no defiance or bravado in her voice. For Sylvia Maracle , executive director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres , it’s a simple statement of fact: “We will move ahead on violence against aboriginal women with or without the federal government.”

The Mohawk leader, who has spearheaded efforts to improve education, housing, health care, child welfare and addiction treatment for her people, has outlasted seven prime ministers. She has learned to bend, tack, bide her time and always have a back-up plan. When someone slams a door, Maracle finds at least half a dozen windows.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has definitively slammed the door on the 10-year quest by aboriginal women — led by the Native Women’s Association of Canada in partnership with the Metis Nation of Ontario , the Independent First Nations Alliance and the network of 117 friendship centres that serve indigenous peoples in urban centres — for a public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women. Maracle accepts that. She is not interested in head-butting.

“Let’s move beyond the inquiry,” she says. “Let’s simply acknowledge that there is an alarming rate of violence directed at aboriginal women and do what we can to break the cycle, repair the damage and rebuild healthy communities. We have the knowledge. We have the evidence. Unless we broaden our scope, we’re not going to move the agenda forward.”. .

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