What we want

by Claudette Dumont-Smith

What aboriginal women want for themselves and their families is not much different than what the rest of women want.

I am writing this article primarily for one purpose. That is to inform or educate my non-aboriginal colleagues of the dreadful conditions aboriginal women are forced to live in, both on and off-reserve, even in today's modern world. I will share with the readers what aboriginal women want for themselves and their families, which is not different than what the rest of the women in mainstream society want. They have told me of their hopes and aspirations in various ways: through a nation-wide study on family violence that I oversaw in 1991 and when I traveled as an aboriginal circle member on the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. It was through my professional career as a registered nurse and my many years of experience in the area of family violence that I was appointed to be a member of the aboriginal circle on the Panel by the Indian and Inuit Nurses Association of Canada.

Statistics continue to prove that aboriginal women are indeed the poorest of Canada's poor. Many of them, twice the national average at least, head single parent households and subsist on social assistance. Aboriginal women bear children at a much younger age and have more children than their non-native counterparts. They live in overcrowded dwellings on-reserve or in slum neighborhoods off-reserve. Eight aboriginal women out of ten are abused and they are about four times more likely to die from accidents or violence as compared to the rest of the Canadian female population; the suicide rate is more than twice the national average. They live in a society that is male dominated both on or off-reserve. Aboriginal leaders are customarily males as are non-aboriginal leaders.

Services to those living on-reserve are inadequate or non-existent. Services to those residing off-reserve are culturally inappropriate. Accessibility to services and programs for both groups remains a serious problem.

There is a lack of well-trained health and social service providers on-reserve and for the aboriginal women off-reserve these care-givers, in the majority of instances, lack cultural sensitivity. Many times the abused women must leave her home and children to seek services that are culturally inappropriate in a foreign surrounding. It does not surprise me in the least that in many, many instances the victim will return to her abusive partner and former destructive life-style. What other choice does she have? She could choose to live off-reserve on social assistance in a ghettoized section of a city, away from family and friends and familiar surroundings. Her options to find a better life for her and her children are very limited indeed.

Ce que nous voulons

par Claudette Dumont Smith

Si j'écris, c'est pour mettre au courant mes collègues non autochtones des conditions épouvantables dans lesquelles vivent la plupart des femmes autochtones et de ce qu'elles souhaitent pour elles et leur famille. Les femmes autochtones sont toujours les membres les plus pauvres parmi les pauvres de la société canadienne. Au moins deux fois plus de femmes autochtones que la moyenne nationale sont à la tête d'une famille monoparentale et subsistent grâce à l'aide sociale. Huit femmes autochtones sur dix sont maltraitées; le taux de suicide chez les femmes autochtones est deux fois plus élevé que la moyenne nationale. Dans les réserves, les services sont soit inadéquats, soit inexistants. En dehors des réserves, les services ne font pas l'affaire sur plan culturel.

Les femmes autochtones veulent récupérer ce qu'elles avaient avant l'adoption de l'infâme Loi sur les Indiens; elles veulent se soigner et soigner leur famille selon les traditions ancestrales; elles veulent que des programmes tenant compte de leur culture soient offerts dans leurs communautés; elles veulent que l'église qui administrait les pensionnats et a joué un rôle clé dans la destruction de la langue, des moyens d'existence et du mode d'éducation des autochtones leur accorde des réparations. Elles veulent que le racisme disparaisse. Elles veulent occuper la place à laquelle elles ont droit dans la société canadienne.

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