Stolen Sisters: The Story of Two Missing Girls, Their Families, and How Canada Has Failed Indigenous Women

By Conlogue, Clair | Canadian Woman Studies, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Stolen Sisters: The Story of Two Missing Girls, Their Families, and How Canada Has Failed Indigenous Women


Conlogue, Clair, Canadian Woman Studies


STOLEN SISTERS: THE STORY OF TWO MISSING GIRLS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND HOW CANADA HAS FAILED INDIGENOUS WOMEN

Emmanuelle Walter

Toronto: Harper Collins, 2015

In Stolen Sisters: The Story of Two Missing Girls, Their Families, and How Canada Has Failed Indigenous Women, Walker explores the disappearance of Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander as a window into the Canada-wide crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. She identifies colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism as underlying causes, and suggests that a feminicide is taking place, "a twofold phenomenon whereby countless women are murdered solely because of their gender, and government negligence further exacerbates the impact" (15). Overarchingly, she investigates the disproportionate and unique ways that violence against women manifests in Indigenous communities and among Indigenous women throughout Canada.

Since 1980, over 1,200 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada. Walker pays homage to them thtoughout Stolen Sisters. She assesses how anti-Indigenous racism is entrenched in Canadian society, including the police and government, and cites it as the primary reason why Indigenous women are disproportionately likely to go missing or be murdered, and to have their cases go unsolved. Although only 4.3 percent of all women in Canada are Indigenous, they represent approximately 25 percent of all cases of missing or murdered women (Pearce as cited in Walker, 2015). In 2012,23 percent of female homicide victims were Indigenous women.

Walker overviews Canada's colonial history to contextualize the discrimination that Indigenous communities continue to face. She documents how settlers murdered Indigenous people in cold blood, including over 4,000 children via residential schools. Those who survived the genocide were deemed second-class citizens, and the social and political marginalization borne of this time continue to be felt today. Indigenous communities experience health disparities comparable to "third-world" countries, in addition to severely limited employment and education opportunities. Walker argues that the Canadian government is complicit in this marginalization and directly discriminates against Indigenous communities.

Stolen Sisters also aims to commemorate Maisy and Shannon. Maisy lived on the Algonquin reserve of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg (KZA), which sits just outside Maniwaki, the Quebec town where Shannon resided. In September 2008, the girls went missing. Police and the media victim-blamed them for supposedly living "at-risk lifestyles," and blamed their families for supposedly failing to protect them. By contrast, Walker asserts that police negligence, based in anti-Indigenous racism, was the primary reason why they were never found.

Stolen Sisters makes a significant contribution to the limited body of literature addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Walker offers a wide range of evidence to demonstrate that this crisis is the direct result of gender inequality and lack of access to institutional accountability and justice within Indigenous communities. She frames the plight of Indigenous women in Canada as inextricable from that of Indigenous women worldwide.

Institutional accountability is chronically lacking in cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Shannon's disappearance was reported to the Maniwaki police, the Surete du Quebec (SQ). Maisy's was reported to the reserve police, Kitigan Zibi police services (KZPS). Based on racist stereotypes, both forces initially assumed--despite ample evidence to the contrary--that the girls had run away. Maisy's mother Laurie expressed that the KZPS was "incompetent and quick to lay blame" (66), while Shannon's father Bryan felt "neglected and scorned by the SQ" (68), which his mother attributed to their Indigeneity.

The cases were handled separately and wholly incompetently for the first two months, losing invaluable investigation time. …

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