We, at the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), are saddened to learn that Jody Wilson-Raybould is stepping away from federal politics. She is an Indigenous woman who once held one of the highest offices in this country, and she left the federal cabinet under circumstances that have frustrated and angered some Indigenous women.
Political life is not easy for anyone, but it is especially hostile to Indigenous women who must battle both sexual and racial discrimination and aggressions. Ms. Wilson-Raybould is, sadly, just one of a number of Indigenous women who have found the political environment in Canada to be unwelcoming.
The report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered indigenous Women and Girls says we must end political marginalization of Indigenous women in Canada and that governments must take urgent and special measures to ensure that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are represented in governance and that their political rights need to be respected and upheld. These efforts must include the development of policies and procedures to protect Indigenous women against sexism and racism within political life. The report says this is one of the pathways to ending the violence, yet we are seeing the opposite happen in Canada.
Indigenous women are underrepresented politically. And if our strongest women warriors, like Jody Wilson-Raybould, are not appropriately supported within the Canadian framework, then we have a society that is not just and in which reconciliation becomes much more difficult.
We are pleased with the announcement this week that Mary Simon, an Inuk, will be the next Governor General. But we need more Indigenous women in Parliament and holding real positions of power. We need more Indigenous female cabinet Ministers, especially in the Departments of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Indigenous Services that have significant control over Indigenous people’s daily lives.
Some have been asking us why we would want Indigenous women to hold senior positions in what remains a colonially structured government. The answer is that this is the system of government we’ve got until we have full self-determination, and we must find ways to work within it to help our people in every way we can.
Just as NWAC has said we must end racism in healthcare, so too must we end racism in politics.
As we head into another federal election, we urge political parties to actively recruit Indigenous women as candidates, and to support them when they are elected.