‘Violence Against Aboriginal Women’ author agrees w/Six Nations Councillor Helen Miller re futility of blaming colonization & residential schools

Counterpoise.caSince initially publishing Six Nations Councillor Helen Miller: ‘Stop blaming colonization & residential schools‘ VoiceofCanada has been made aware of an excellent article about violence against native women by a woman – whom I have met personally – with a 30-year connection to aboriginal communities and, as she says, “great respect for the indigenous way of life.”

She wrote to tell me  how pleased she was to have read Helen Miller’s observations about the futility of constantly blaming colonization and residential schools since she had written nearly identical words in her own article – before having read Miller’s letter.

Violence Against Aboriginal Women

CounterPoise.ca, May 27, 2011

On March 25, 2011, the Canadian House of Commons all-party Standing Committee on the Status of Women tabled Interim Report: Call Into the Night: An Overview of Violence Against Aboriginal Women (the final report should be ready by the fall of 2011).  Hedy Fry (Liberal, B.C.) is the chair of this committee, and Irene Mathyssen (NDP, Ontario) and Tilly O’Neill-Gordon (Conservative, New Brunswick) are the vice-chairs.  The committee traversed the country between April 2010 and February 2011, meeting with reserve, rural and urban stakeholders.  More than 150 witnesses provided testimony.  In her press release regarding the interim report, Fry said the problem was getting worse.

A Statistics Canada report, released May 17, 2011, provides chilling validation of the committee’s findings.  In Violent Victimization of Aboriginal Women in the Canadian Provinces, 2009, author Shannon Brennan noted that nearly 67,000 aboriginal women reported they had experienced violence in the previous 12 months.  This represents 47% of aboriginal women, 15 years and older, in the provinces.  (The territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) were not included in this study.)  Aboriginal women were nearly three times as likely to self-report these incidents, as compared to non-aboriginal women.  Males acting alone were primarily responsible for the altercations.

I was saddened to learn the situation remained as bad as this.  More than 30 years ago, I worked in a native organization in which most of the aboriginal women on staff were getting beaten up on a regular basis.  I strongly advised one of my co-workers to leave her abusive male partner, which she eventually did.  However she had to live with a permanent reminder of the failed relationship:  a skeletal disfigurement.


Why does the violence continue to get worse?  I would argue that the constant blaming of forces such as colonization and the residential schools has not helped move the dialogue forward.  Yet many witnesses who presented evidence to the Status of Women committee included these two factors among the main causes.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that colonization and the residential schools have contributed substantially to the dysfunction, but I maintain it is completely unrealistic for some people to insist that all aboriginal misfortune only started when non-aboriginals arrived on this continent. […]

Read the rest of this article…


Mark Vandermaas, Editor

One response to “‘Violence Against Aboriginal Women’ author agrees w/Six Nations Councillor Helen Miller re futility of blaming colonization & residential schools

  1. “In her press release regarding the interim report, Fry said the problem was getting worse.”

    It’s unfortunate women (particularly Aboriginal women) have trusted their security to deluded partisan hacks like Fry. There is no doubt that Aboriginal women, as a group, experience domestic violence at a rate several times that of the non-native women. In callously pretending to address the concerns of female victims of domestic violence Fry and her pointy-headed Liberals passed the most draconian gun controls possible. They then went about carving out an exemption to these gun control laws for Aboriginal men. Similarly, when the Tories tried to pass a bill that gave Aboriginal women the protection of full charter rights (something their non-native sisters enjoyed which they didn’t), Fry and her bumbling political cohorts voted this bill down.

    I guess the point is that the aboriginal community cannot rely on (nor should they) solutions to their problems coming from sources outside the community. Solutions to aboriginal problems can only come from Aboriginals themselves in a fundamental cultural epiphany. The first hurtle is to admit there are culture-specific failings. Second step is in taking responsibility for it (not blaming all social/cultural dysfunction on external or historic sources). Whenever cultural studies are done that produce results native radicals do not like, they are squelched or branded racist. When natives get past supporting some romanticised public image, which radical extortionists concocted to elicit public subsidy, and they admit reserve culture has deep self destructive social issues that makes natives a victim of their own victimhood mentality, then substantive cultural repair can begin.

    Helen Miller is just the latest of a number of enlightened Aboriginal leaders who realise that most of the problems native communities suffer is internal and culture-specific. They realise that native communities must throw off the self-conditioned chains of eternal victimhood, self-pity and dependence and become strong by becoming responsible to themselves and their community. Take ownership of their problems and build a culture of self-reliance, commitment and integrity to deal with these issues. Healing is a matter of cultural catharsis. They must choose between the culture of eternal victimhood which is a prison culture totally dependent on external patronage where violence, lawlessness, corruption, addiction, and personal failure abound, or embrace the culture of responsible self reliance which leads to true independence and a strong vibrant community. I respect Councillor Miller. She is a community healer not a community breaker.