For some time now, I have been feeling compelled to share a speech I presented in 1993. I have been ignoring the feeling but it isn’t going away and I don’t know why. It could be because of the lack of action on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Platform for Action and other recent events that have highlighted the inherent racism in our country. COVID may have brought out some of the best in us but it has also highlighted the worst. It could also be because it harkens back to a time when I was first faced with acknowledging my white privilege, when I learned that sometimes what I want to say isn’t what I need to say, and sometimes I just need to trust the process.
I had recently participated in my first Women’s Conference where the issues of racism and homophobia had shifted the focus of the conference and I was still processing all that had occurred when I was asked to present at the Sri-Chimnoy Peace Run in 1993. It was perhaps the second time that I was asked to speak at a public event. I really just wanted to focus on violence against women and spent much time trying to get it right and it just wasn’t happening and I kept going in a bit of a different perspective. I, finally, in the wee hours of the morning of the Peace Run -just let the words flow without judgement or editing and this is what it ended up as:
“I am pleased to be here with all of you this evening.
I believe very strongly in events such as this, not only because it creates a positive energy which sends out a very powerful message, but also because it makes one realize that we are not alone in our beliefs.
As a woman, peace is very important to me.
Women have been waging peace on war for centuries and continue to work to create a peaceful environment in which to live.
There are far too many women who do not experience peace in their own homes. Women suffer various forms of violence every day and – we perpetuate it against each other.
Violence permeates every aspect of our society. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism, homophobia: They’re all forms of violence.
Violence breeds in our communication. The language we use can be oppressive. In order to achieve peace, we must begin by first recognizing how our own behaviours and language can
Judgement of others who are simply different does not contribute to a state of peace. If we want to create peace in the world, we must first create peace within ourselves.
We have come together to join in solidarity to make a very positive step in our quest for peace. Joining together adds strength to the powerful message that we believe in peace.
We may wonder how we as individuals can contribute to the efforts toward peace.
First, by participating in the event this evening has shown that we have accepted our personal responsibility.
Next, we must strive for peace in our homes, families; in our daily lives. By adopting zero tolerance for violence we can utilize a more positive, peaceful approach to resolving conflict.
We need to be more open and honest with others, but, more importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to realize that it is easy to recognize oppressive behaviour in others, but it is difficult to perceive it in ourselves. We must recognize also that we have been well-trained by the oppressive patriarchy that governs us and retrain our thinking to be more compatible with a world of peace. If we want to change the world, we must begin by changing ourselves”
It is almost 30 years later and while the issues then are still with us today, we have made some progress. We have learned to define the solutions to these issues with an intersectional lens because we recognize that these issues impact each of us differently.
In order to continue moving forward to achieve equality for everyone we need a National Action Plan to ensure follow up to the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Final Report’s Calls to Justice. In June, the Native Women’s Association of Canada released a Report Card on Government Follow-up to the report. The Association graded the Government of the following 4 fundamental rights: The Right to Culture, The Right to Health, The Right to Security, and the Right to Justice. All four of these interconnected, interdependent rights received a Failing grade. Without a National Action Plan, there is no way to gauge any progress in these areas.
Over the past few months, our Public Health Emergency response to Covid-19 has underscored many issues and inequities in our society. Violence Against Women, poverty, and racism have been highlighted and demonstrate that while we are all on the same journey, we are not in the same boat. It has emphasized that if we want a more equal world, we need to focus on those most marginalized and disenfranchised. We need to understand that we cannot resolve any of these issues without resolving them all.
At the end of the day, we need to start at the beginning and that is that if we want a more equal, peaceful world, we must start by changing ourselves and then we can create an equal, just society.
At the end of the day, perhaps the point of sharing this little piece of herstory with all of you is to remind myself that I still have a voice and that it needs to be shared. Perhaps, it is also to provide an opportunity for each of us to understand our individual and collective responsibility in advancing equality for everyone.