Student Voices: Aboriginal women’s rights | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Aboriginal women’s rights | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Aboriginal women’s rights

Shayne Golosky-Johnson discusses the importance of Aboriginal women’s rights and the alarming statistics on missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author. 

Coming to University is a privilege; students come to learn about the world and how it works — from engineering to fine arts and everything in between. When students leave, it is expected that they will know more about and be educated about social issues. That’s why I was alarmed to have the experience I did last week.

This encounter happened in the Arts Quad between Rutherford Library and Business. I was walking alongside a friend discussing the statistics on missing and murdered Aboriginal women, as well as the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation event on March 27, when another student came over and joined the conversation. At first he was quiet during our exchange, but then as we were leaving, he spoke up and said: “I don’t see the point of bothering to try and find, or reconcile the murders of missing Aboriginal Women because as far as I am concerned they got what they deserved.”

I was shocked. I didn’t get the opportunity to respond at the time, but this is what I would have said to that student and others with similar viewpoints, in hopes that I could change their mind or at least draw attention to an important issue both within the Faculty of Arts and outside the University:

Imagine this: You are a student living in the dorms in Lister. Your desk is covered with photos of family and friends. You call your mother to check in on things at home, and possibly to arrange a visit home after the school year. You get off the phone with your mother, and dial your best friend’s number to make plans for an upcoming school break. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, just a regular school night — perhaps you are winding down from the midterm season. There’s no answer. Thinking nothing of it, you decide to try a bit later — perhaps the next week, but again, there is no answer.

This continues and you see your friend’s picture on the six o’clock news. Then, she has been missing for six months and she may be dead. The police stop looking and pronounce it a cold case. Months, even years later, they still refuse to look into her case, and eventually people stop caring about who she was. She becomes just another statistic.

Would you just let it be?

REDress Project1
Photo: In March 2012, Red dresses blanketed the UAlberta campus as part of the REDress Project, an installation art project designed to bring awareness to Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Because this is what it is like for the families of missing Aboriginal Women in Canada. According to the facts posted on Missing Justice, “approximately 60% of the 3,000 women that have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since 1980, are Native, with approximately 500 cases outstanding in BC alone.”

In a cruel twist of irony last month, a 26-year-old Inuit student from Saint Mary’s University disappeared in Halifax. Her name was Loretta Saunders and she was murdered by her roommates. She could have been your best friend, a daughter, or even your sister. Imagine what it was like for those two weeks before her body was found on a median on the side of the Trans Canada Highway. Imagine the sleepless nights, the gut-twisting worry and the nightmares that bleed into days as you prepare for the worst. Imagine the look of utter anguish as the family identifies the body of their child, sister, daughter…friend.

Loretta’s family got closure, but most people don’t. In fact, one quarter of missing women’s cases remain unresolved.

When you see the names and pictures of missing women, imagine they are your sister, mother, daughter, or friend. Remember they all have stories, and please help change the statistics.

For more information:

Loretta’s Story:

Missing Justice:

Missing Persons in Canada:

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About Shayne Golosky-Johnston

Shayne Golosky-Johnston

Shayne is a 3rd year English and History student in the Faculty of Arts. Originally from Fort McMurray, he is an executive member of the Arts Aboriginal Council and identifies as Two-Spirited.