Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with the member for Sydney—Victoria.
I first want to acknowledge that I am addressing everyone today from the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. At the core beliefs of the Anishinabe is the notion of respect. Each element is part of the cycle of life. Each element has its purpose and deserves as much respect. Our relationships are what matter the most, and we should cherish them.
I would be lying if I said anything other than that I am deeply saddened to be here this evening, yet again, to continue this essential conversation on the real crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people. Even if the conversation is continuously evolving, we have to admit that it is not concrete, rapid or transformative enough for families who are missing loved ones, such as families back home in Fredericton right now.
How did we get here? That is a question we do not ask ourselves enough. I remember first learning about this issue. My stepfather taught native studies, and he brought his lived experience to the classroom. He took part in the Kanesatake resistance, and he has consistently represented Wabanaki voices at the United Nations. He is a lodge keeper, a language keeper and a pipe carrier. From when I was very young, he would share with me the truth about injustice in Canada for indigenous peoples and how women were targeted for their strength, leadership and resilience.
Women and girls give life to the nations, but they were an inherent threat to the goals of colonization and assimilation. I learned with horror of how indigenous women were killed or went missing at significantly higher rates and how law enforcement was far too often slow to investigate or pursue justice, if it was pursued at all. Only 53% of murder cases in the Sisters in Spirit database have been solved, compared with 84% of all murder cases across the country.
We often felt alone in our efforts to bring awareness. There was no media coverage at that time. There were no demonstrations, and no one knew or cared to know what we were talking about. We have come a long way in Canada since that time, but that fact alone will not bring these women home. This issue is about misogyny, racism and systemic discrimination. Today, my wish would be that this discussion can also be about hope, not just for awareness or education but also for broad consensus and swift action. It can be about hope for adequate resources, policy change and justice. We are here to ensure that the laws of the land and Canadian society are accountable and that women and girls are no longer taken from us by violence.
The issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is not a phenomenon. It is not the result of unexplained circumstances. We know the root causes, and we can and must address them. We know, for example, that housing is a critical piece of this issue, and indigenous women are five times more likely to experience homelessness. Current investments are not enough, but I know that I am working with my colleagues in this House to make a difference in communities across the country. We are seeing the narrative shift, and solutions do exist.
I look around this chamber, and I am incredibly proud and honoured to work with such devoted and informed MPs from every party in every corner of Canada. I thank all of them for their work, their tireless advocacy, their friendship, their teachings and their tenacity, and I am grateful to know that real allies are in positions to act. I feel a synergy that did not exist in this House or in this country before. I am more certain than ever that we will drive the change to make things better. I know that each of us addressing the House this evening is deeply influenced by the conversations we have with community leaders, with elders, with organizations and with representatives who are leading the cause and guiding the path forward.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the people in my own riding who are making a true difference in people’s lives. They are the indigenous women of the Wabanaki territories, the team at the Under One Sky Friendship Centre, the Gignoo Transition House, traditional leadership, chiefs and councils, health directors, education directors, and language and culture teachers. I am using my voice to uphold theirs, because they are the ones who inspire me to do more.
Let us not lose this momentum. Let us not lose another life to violence against indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people.
On May 5, we mark Red Dress Day. Red dress walks bring people together and give strength to families and loved ones. Public vigils shine a light on those lost. May we never forget their stories and passions. May we honour their lives, and may we act now to end this crisis. Woliwon.