During the first weekend of April, two weeks before my final exams of my first year of University I attended a program called Daughters of the Vote, a program in which 338 women from across Canada are chosen to represent their federal riding for one week in Ottawa, Ontario. It was definitely a unique learning experience. I found myself in new situations that afforded me opportunities to meet other women from across Canada. Although there were ups and downs to that week, I don’t think that I would change this experience for anything.
I, along with other Indigenous delegates decided that we would turn our backs as a silent protest when Prime Minister Trudeau came in to speak to us during our session at the House of Commons. Other delegates across Canada also decided to turn their backs in a show of support and allyship. Like anything that is controversial or outside of expected norms, it took social media and news outlets by storm. There were people who supported our decision. But, there was also backlash from a lot of other people.
I believe that the attention that we drew was a good thing. We were heard across Canada—coast to coast. I also believe that I did the right thing for me. Obviously we all turned our backs for individual reasons. But, it started when we came together as a group to talk about how we were feeling. It is an amazing feeling to know how powerful a group of young women can be when they come together as one.
I turned my back because Trudeau and his government continue to fail me as an Indigenous woman. Indigenous women constantly receive unfair treatment in this country, from going missing or murdered, to forced sterilization. Since my time at Daughters of the Vote, the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women has come to an end after three years. As reported by Annabelle Timsit, the inquiry found that “Indigenous women and girls in Canada are three to four times more likely to go missing or be murdered than their non-native peers.” Indigenous women make up just 4.3% of Canada’s women; I am among the 4.3%. The scarier part is that Indigenous women are 16% of female homicide victims and 11% of missing persons cases that involve women.
As a woman, I already have to take extra precautions when I am out and about. However, as an Indigenous woman I have to go beyond that; I live in a constant state of worry. I have to post onto social media to let friends and family know that if I go missing it wasn’t because I left on my own or ran away and for them to please look for me because something has happened. This, this is why I ultimately decided to turn my back against Trudeau. I am sure that if you ask another delegate they will have a different answer and that is 100% okay.
I hope that we were able to show other women and even younger girls that it is okay to speak out about the things that you believe in regardless of what situation you’re in. I genuinely hope that Indigenous (along with non-indigenous) women apply for this program when it starts up again in 2021. For myself, I hope that the way I participated in this program and on that day inspired my eight year old sister to believe that she can do anything. I hope that I have inspired her to fight, to continuously learn and to live fiercely. I think that we live in an age where young girls are beginning to take strides in every aspect of life.
Written by Aurora Ominika-Enosse