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Hamilton chapter holds public forum on murdered and missing Indigenous women

Hamilton forum

The Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls – The Uncomfortable Truth public forum at Hamilton City Hall Council Chambers last night.

The Council of Canadians Hamilton chapter organized a public forum last night on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. They did so in collaboration with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre, the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University, and Aboriginal Education and Student Services at Mohawk College.

Chapter activist Kathie Clark says, “The gallery was overflowing – I estimated 250.”

The speakers at last night’s forum included Angela Sterritt, a Gitxsan journalist for the CBC and an artist from British Columbia, Wonda Jamieson, daughter of a sister in spirit, Elder Norma General, and by video Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaw lawyer, activist and chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. It was moderated by Danielle Boissoneau, who grew up on the Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie. Val King provided the traditional opening ceremony.

In advance of the public forum, the Hamilton Spectator reported, “Every day, Norma General misses her granddaughter. …Tashina General, was just 21 years old and nearly four months pregnant when she was strangled to death Jan. 22, 2008 by boyfriend Kent Hill, who is serving a life sentence for the murder. Her grandmother says it took six weeks for authorities to take the fact she was missing seriously. Her body was found in a shallow grave near Hill’s parents’ Six Nations home three months later. …She will share her story Monday during a public forum entitled The Uncomfortable Truth, which will focus on murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.”

And CBC reported, “Twenty years ago, Helen Gillings’ body was found in an alley on King Street. She was 19. Gillings is one of hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women, some of whom grew up in nearby Six Nations, some of whom, like Gillings, were killed in Hamilton. …[On] Monday night, to kick off Aboriginal Awareness Month, a forum at Hamilton city hall will focus on stories like Gillings’ and others — the ‘uncomfortable truth’ about these hundreds of unsolved murders and missing persons cases.” That article also acknowledges the Hamilton chapter and all the groups that organized last night’s forum.

Clark notes, “This public forum was the latest in a series of events the Hamilton chapter has planned over the past two years to build our relationship with the urban community of Indigenous people in Hamilton. Last June we focused on historical issues by having a presentation on treaties at our chapter annual general meeting.”

The Council of Canadians has called on the Harper government to support a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Further reading
Hamilton chapter calls for inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women (February 2015 blog)
Council visits Sacred Fire in support of an inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women (October 2014 blog)
Standing in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples (Autumn 2014 Canadian Perspectives article)