Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
Indigenous women's trauma can’t be conveyed in statistics
For all the Liberal government's promises to atone for the wrongs of the past, the present remains unbearable for many
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Last month, on June 8, a new and much-lauded survey charted what one indigenous activist called “a growing awareness” among Canadians of indigenous issues.
“Sympathy for aboriginals rising: survey” read The Globe and Mail’s headline, adding that three quarters of Canadians want to “see social and economic disparities addressed.”
That same day, news broke in Calgary of body parts found in a park. They would turn out to be part of the remains of Joey English, a 25-year-old indigenous woman.
Police have not ruled her death a homicide. Instead, a man, Joshua Jordan Weise, stands accused of offering an indignity to human remains. It’s alleged English died in his home and he dismembered her body and sought to hide it. Police have not yet said how she died.
Stephanie, English’s mother, says she feels betrayed by the justice system. She criticized the prosecutor for allowing Weise out on bail and she’s launched a “Justice for Joey English” group.
“There is no compassion to how it’s being done,” she told me. “I honestly believe if we were white, our case would have been dealt with and we would have closure.”
She still has not received her daughter’s remains, in order to bury them.
And while she has praise for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Stephanie says she was “brushed away” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when she tried to tell him about her daughter’s case at an event in Calgary over the weekend.
“I don’t need his apologies. He can give those to my mother and the ones who went to residential school. What he can do is really look at my granddaughter, and ask if this is going to happen to my granddaughter when she grows up.”
The loss in the English family has been great. Joey’s sister died of what police deemed suicide. Two other family members were murdered, and two more died from suicide, according to Joey’s cousin, Brailon English. Stephanie told me she believes her daughter would still be alive if she’d received more help to treat an addiction.
“Now I sit in that category where my girls are statistics,” she says. “That is so heartbreaking.”
Statistics — of violence, incarceration, education, health and poverty of Canada’s Indigenous — are often what we see. Individual stories don’t often break out into the national consciousness. Joey English has not been a national news story. But she and her family are part of the actual lives and pain that we choose to talk about in numbers, a tactic that defangs, sanitizes, and silences their stories.
Their stories are ones to listen to, carefully. They tell not just of suffering but of well-earned distrust.