(Stolen Sisters founder April Wiberg says women should not be held down by fear. Photo: Courtesy April Wiberg)
APTN National News
In the wake of online death threats against Alberta Premier Rachel Notley a long-time advocate of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) is speaking out.
April Wiberg, founder of the Stolen Sisters awareness movement in Edmonton, said the threats toward the premier are unacceptable.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the premier and her family,” said Wiberg. “No one, regardless of if they’re a politician or everyday citizen should ever have to be subjected to that type of threat. It’s unacceptable in our society and it’s very troubling.”
Notley has been the target of vicious online attacks from individuals expressing displeasure with Bill 6, the occupational health and safety rules and workers compensation coverage to hired farm workers. The legislation, passed last week, has been the center of passionate protests by the agriculture community around the province who are concerned the new rules will affect their way of life.
But people going so far as threatening to murder the premier over disputed legislation far crosses the line, said Wiberg.
She added, at the same time, it’s bringing to light the violence experienced by Indigenous women on an everyday basis, .
“I think for the premier to be experiencing something like this and for it to be so public it’ll help raise more awareness about the issue of violence against women as a whole,” she said.
“And hopefully there’s more action taken to prevent and to hold those accountable that are making these threats and carrying them out. I also think we need to do better as citizens and say, ‘You know what, this is not acceptable and we don’t support this type of behavior.’”
Alberta is an “extremely challenging” place to live for women said Julie Kaye, assistant professor of sociology and director of community engaged research at The Kings University in Edmonton. There is a culture of violence that she believes is connected to the origins of a broader attitude towards women seen throughout Canada.
“We (Canada) were founded on this colonial dispossession of Indigenous persons and part of that dispossession is specifically dispossessing Indigenous women,” said Kaye.
“I think European women were already devalued – they (Europeans) brought a patriarchal society that devalued women in general and then devalued women and Indigenous women in particular.”
Before colonization, Indigenous women were leaders in their communities and those roles soon broke down during attempts to assimilate First Nations to European ideologies, she said.
“We have feminism, we have these things that have emerged to try to address equality in the country but we haven’t really been able to deal with the multiple effects of how that plays out. Just the level of violence that we continue to see towards women and then how that specifically effects certain populations of women (like MMIW) it really is connected to the very foundation of us as a country.”
Wiberg agrees with Kaye’s assessment on connecting violence against women with Canada’s colonial history. It’s an issue that she will continue to raise awareness about as the country begins work on a long awaited national inquiry on MMIW.
“Our hearts go out to the premier. We definitely will continue to advocate for the rights of our women and not be held down by fear,” said Whiberg.