Indigenous women need to be protected by police forces now, Morrison tells college crowd
The way police handle violence against Indigenous women has to change immediately in order to stem the high levels of violence against them, a John Abbott College audience heard at an event designed to commemorate and call attention to that disturbing trend Monday morning in Ste. Anne de Bellevue.
“My sister Tiffany Morrison went missing June 18, 2006. Her remains were found four years later near the Mercier Bridge,” Kahnawake’s Melanie Morrison said. “That took our family on a journey you don’t want to be on. There was no action taken by outside police forces. Tiffany was last seen in LaSalle, but because she was Indigenous we had to file a report with the Peacekeepers instead. That’s four years not knowing if she was alive or dead, and the impact was completely traumatizing.”
Morrison was addressing an audience of about 100 students and another 10 to 15 staff members at the college during its Red Dress event, designed to call attention to the high levels of violence perpetrated against Indigenous women.
The red dresses adorning the walls of the college’s Agora represented the incredibly high numbers of Indigenous women that go missing, are sexually assaulted, or are the victims of violence of some kind.
Morrison said the institutional racism in police services means that Indigenous people are continually treated as second-class citizens in every aspect.
“There was absolutely no cooperation from outside police forces. It was traumatizing on two levels. On the first, we didn’t know if she was alive or dead, and second, to finding her remains four years later and getting no answers from anyone. The barriers those outside police forces put up caused my sister to lay in a field for four years. Four years she couldn’t be at peace,” Morrison said. “If the numbers were flipped, and the percentage of non-Indigenous women in Canada were the victims of violence at the same rate, the outcry would be incredible. It needs to change. It needs to change now.”
Morrison said the federal government’s pledges to keep Indigenous women safer have proved fruitless, because the violence keeps on coming unabated.
“Here we are in 2023 and Indigenous women are still overpoliced and under protected and the promises from the government have not come to fruition. They have not made changes to policing, to the justice system, to housing, to support for victims, nothing,” she said.
Statistics from across the country, including the 2019 final report from the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, shows that Indigenous people, and women in particular, disappear at a much higher rate than people who are not Indigenous.
Morrison was only the first speaker in a jam-packed day at John Abbott. Kahnawake elder Kevin Deer opened the day with a traditional opening and later on, the college screened the award-winning film Rustic Oracle and hosted a question-and-answer period with director Sonia Bonspille Boileau.
The presentations concluded with a presentation from Diane Labelle about the struggled faced by the LGBTQ and two-spirit members of Indigenous communities.
The event was the brainchild of John Abbott dean of Indigenous Studies Kim Tekakwitha Martin, who also knew Tiffany Morrison well and fought back tears recalling her friend.
“In Kahnawake, there is still a sign looking for information about Tiffany. I hope that one day they are able to take that sign down,” she said.
Martin said that the tight-knit nature of the community meant that Tiffany Morrison’s death left a hole in a lot of lives.
“It might be hard to imagine in this busy world that you live in that’s so big,” she told the audience. “But when you come from a small community when one of goes missing, it leaves a huge impact. The heart of a community has been taken away.”
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase