Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls Commissioner Michele Audette speaks during a press conference at the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak office in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls Commissioner Michele Audette speaks during a press conference at the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak office in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

Online threats, racism causing fear for Indigenous women: MMIWG commissioner

A commissioner wonders if Indigenous women feel any safer with threats levelled during recent anti-pipeline protests

Michele Audette feels disappointed when she looks online and sees a barrage of violent threats towards Indigenous women.

“It made me so mad that we tolerate this. There’s no real … reprimand,” says Audette, who was one of the commissioners for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

As she gently places her eight-month-old grandchild into her vehicle in Quebec City, Audette explains that she understood it would take time for governments and society to work towards the more than 200 recommendations included in the inquiry’s final report last June. The report called violence against First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls a form of genocide.

Audette had hoped the work would mean a better and safer future for children such as her granddaughter.

She wonders if Indigenous women feel any safer, especially with threats levelled during recent anti-pipeline protests, rail blockades and demonstrations.

In many of those cases, she feels that women are more often targets than men.

“Here again, status quo. We are not safe,” she says.

“For me, in 2020, it’s unacceptable.”

Bardish Chagger, Canada’s minister of diversity, inclusion and youth, has called racist taunts and threats directed at Indigenous people following recent protests horrible and ignorant. He says many Canadians are unaware of Indigenous history and rights.

Erica Violet Lee, a community organizer from Saskatoon, says the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada has always been violent.

When they speak out about issues, ”Canadian politeness” crumbles away, she says. It was similar during the Idle No More protest movement, which was started by four women in 2012.

“When Indigenous communities and nations exercise our inherent right to self-determination, we become troublemakers, ‘bad Indians,’ who don’t respect the Canadian rule of law,” Lee said in an email.

“But Cree laws and the laws of our lands say that we have a responsibility to act in situations of injustice and environmental devastation.”

Lee recently attended a demonstration at a Saskatoon rail line in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline on traditional territory in British Columbia. She says some men began yelling at young protesters to jump in front of the trains.

She says she and the youth were called everything from “stupid” to “terrorists.” They also received death threats.

“How do we respond to that? We keep living,” Lee says.

During the pipeline protests, it was common to see online comments encouraging drivers to run over protesters. One photo showed blood on the front of a train with a laughing face emoji.

The SooToday news website in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., citing a rise in racism, closed its comment section on Indigenous stories in February.

“We have read your ignorant ramblings, your subtle, but hurtful racism,” editor Mike Purvis wrote in an editorial. “We have moderated your thinly (and not-so-thinly) veiled threats of violence.”

Uttering threats is a criminal act. RCMP spokeswoman Catherine Fortin said in an email that a ”hate-motivated incident,” such as name-calling or racial insults, may not reach the threshold of a criminal offence, but can still be reported to police.

Nickita Longman, a Saulteaux woman from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, says it has been inspiring to see Indigenous people across the country come together in protests, but it has come with alarming backlash.

The longtime activist and organizer, who lives in Winnipeg, says the most concerning aspect of online hate and threats towards Indigenous women is how often it goes unchallenged.

The cross-Canada demonstrations have for the most part been peaceful, she says, and women will not be swayed by threats.

“Until our inherent rights are recognized and respected to the fullest capacity, we will continue to resist,” Longman says.

“It is important to continue because our resistance has the capacity to dictate the future for generations to come.”

Her main concern is online rhetoric moving offline.

“The more these comments find space on the internet, the more they embolden people to act on them in person.

“As an Indigenous woman, that is by far the scariest part.”

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

IndigenousMissing woman

Just Posted

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Asia Youngman (right) is pictured shooting another short film she wrote and directed titled Hatha. (Luba Popovic)
Peachland set to star in fantasy thriller film about N’xaxaitk’w — a.k.a. the Ogopogo

The film will follow an Indigenous teen as she navigates peer pressure, bullying and identity

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read