In honour of Loretta
February 27, 2014 11:18 AM   Subscribe

26 year-old Inuk woman Loretta Saunders was working on an Honours thesis studying the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women of Canada. Her supervisor called her proposal "the most beautifully written and cared-for assignment I had ever read in seven years of university teaching." Two weeks ago, Loretta disappeared and fell out of contact with family and friends. Yesterday police confirmed that her body had been found in the median of the Trans-Canada Highway. Her disappearance is now being treated as a homicide.

"It's our doing, which Loretta articulated so clearly in her writing," writes her Thesis supervisor Darryl Leroux in a moving tribute. "[T]heft of land base, legalized segregation and racism, residential schools for several generations, continued dispossession = social chaos."

The Native Women Association of Canada (NWAC) has documented 582 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada since the 1960s with many more suspected. James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, has called on Canada to perform a national inquiry into the disappearances.

A vigil honouring Saunders took place last night.
posted by Catchfire (90 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh no, no no no.
posted by rtha at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2014 [13 favorites]


What a tragedy. Well, 582 tragedies (at least).
posted by arcticwoman at 11:22 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is such a shameful part of Canadian society and history. Here are some more links about the so-called "Highway of Tears" in BC were dozens of Aboriginal women have been lost and murdered.

Wikpedia for "Highway of Tears"
CBC Interactive Timeline
"Highway of Tears Website
posted by hepta at 11:22 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is awful. It's a tragedy for all of us to have lost a woman like this.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:24 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by Tsuga at 11:25 AM on February 27, 2014


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posted by Iridic at 11:26 AM on February 27, 2014


Saunders, a university student originally from Labrador, was reported missing to police by her family on Feb. 17. Her car was located the next day in Harrow, Ont.

Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28, were both charged with stealing the car and are incarcerated in Halifax.


Sounds like, in this case at least, the police didn't ignore the matter. This article indicates that Leggette and Henneberry owed Saunders money.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2014


Was reading about this in the news and praying she'd be found. Thanks for posting.

Suspects are in custody (the roommates, who owed her rent money), this is just a horrible tragedy.

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posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:28 AM on February 27, 2014


Oh no, no no no.

That could be a transcript of my split second between seeing this FPP and finishing the first paragraph. Oh no, no no no.
posted by Elsa at 11:30 AM on February 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


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I feel horrible for actually being a little relieved that it was "just" a matter of money.
posted by Etrigan at 11:31 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Sophie1 at 11:32 AM on February 27, 2014


I feel horrible for actually being a little relieved that it was "just" a matter of money.

Honestly it makes me feel worse. This wasn't 'personal'? It wasn't a grudge? It was just some fucking money? This woman's life lost for fucking rent money. Jesus H. Christ.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:33 AM on February 27, 2014 [21 favorites]


Darryl Leroux's memorial is devastating and should be read and digested before saying this was "just" anything.
I refuse to speculate about Loretta’s death. What I do know is that our society has discarded indigenous women and girls in much the same manner for generations. These people were playing out a script that we all know intimately, but never acknowledge. I told a good friend of mine yesterday that there’s no conspiracy, there’s no mystery, Loretta will show up in a ditch like so many indigenous women before her. He was taken aback. I told him that's the pattern.

It's our doing, which Loretta articulated so clearly in her writing -- theft of land base, legalized segregation and racism, residential schools for several generations, continued dispossession = social chaos.
posted by muddgirl at 11:33 AM on February 27, 2014 [50 favorites]


Heartbreaking.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:34 AM on February 27, 2014


Thanks muddgirl. This is why I declined to put any info about the criminal investigation in the OP, aside from the fact that evidence suggests Loretta was indeed murdered.
posted by Catchfire at 11:35 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by holyrood at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2014


I was so messed up coming back from from northern BC after completing my field research on the Highway of Tears that I had to excise the case study from my MA thesis. I couldn't write about it, for multiple personal and ethical reasons. I listened to some of the worst things I have ever heard in my life on those interviews. I couldn't listen to the recordings. (One of the many reasons why I am now in the third year of this degree.)

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posted by avocet at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2014 [25 favorites]


This, from the first link, really resonates with me:

We do have the ability to make better -- and hence safer -- societies. The solution isn't necessarily to get tough on crime -- the solution is to get kind on people. We have to build a society that establishes and supports respect for life, respect for others, respect for communities, and respect for the environment at every single turn.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2014 [52 favorites]


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posted by oceanjesse at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2014


Thanks muddgirl. To be so callous with a woman's life. :(
posted by dabitch at 11:53 AM on February 27, 2014


I told a good friend of mine yesterday that there’s no conspiracy, there’s no mystery, Loretta will show up in a ditch like so many indigenous women before her. He was taken aback. I told him that's the pattern.

So chilling. This all reminds me of the Santa Teresa section of 2666 in a way that sends a shiver down my spine.
posted by naju at 11:56 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Pocahontas at 11:57 AM on February 27, 2014


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posted by Flood at 11:59 AM on February 27, 2014


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posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:02 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by ambrosia at 12:03 PM on February 27, 2014


She was three months pregnant. I cannot imagine how painful this must be for her partner, family, and those close to her. "Sorrow" is the only word I can think of to describe my reaction to this.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:05 PM on February 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


[T]he solution is to get kind on people. -- Loretta Saunders

Loretta Saunders was 3 months pregnant with a classically good life mapped out; and it's Leggette and Henneberry who need kindness right now.

Sometimes kindness is such an enormous ask it appears impossible, in which case it is no solution at all.
posted by de at 12:06 PM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by kewb at 12:07 PM on February 27, 2014


Ugh. Have been following the CBC stories online for a number of days and so dismayed, well, that's not even the word. There are no words, for me. at least.
posted by stevil at 12:08 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by ottereroticist at 12:09 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by sendai sleep master at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2014


Living in the U.S. can really distort your perspective. When I read The Native Women Association of Canada (NWAC) has documented 582 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada since the 1960s with many more suspected, I thought: "that's about 10 a year" and wondered what percentage of the Canadian population was Aboriginal. And then I checked a statistic that revealed there are typically less than 600 homicides each year in Canada (vs like 14,000 annually in the U.S.) and suddenly the numbers told me a very different story than my first impression.
posted by layceepee at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2014 [24 favorites]


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posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by KingEdRa at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by lord_wolf at 12:19 PM on February 27, 2014


I too was one of the people hoping for a better outcome once I heard she was missing. I am terribly sad she wasn't found alive.


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posted by Kitteh at 12:24 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Really, universe?
posted by ZaneJ. at 12:25 PM on February 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


Hopefully, someone will be inspired to stand in the place where she should be standing.

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posted by Mooski at 12:27 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by The Michael The at 12:27 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by KGMoney at 12:29 PM on February 27, 2014


So sad and tragic.

I didn't know about the Highway of Tears. Thanks (I guess?) for bringing it to my attention. It feels like an important thing to know about.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:30 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


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how terribly, terribly sad and senseless.
posted by tealsocks at 12:31 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by bleep-blop at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2014


really good CBC radio podcast of Maryanne Pearce of Ottawa who for seven years researched missing & murdered women in Canada. Her number is as high as 824 aboriginal women. (The 582 people from the OP comes from Native Women's Association of Canada's records, but funding was cut in 2010.)

At the core of Pearce's work is her database. She has meticulously documented 3,329 missing and murdered aboriginal and non-aboriginal women using public sources like newspaper articles, web sites, public police files, and missing person posters. Some of the cases date back to the 1950s, but the overwhelming majority are from 1990 to 2013.

Where possible, Pearce also recorded the ethnicity of the victim. She discovered another risk factor: simply being an aboriginal woman. Of all the missing and murdered women in the database, 24.8 per cent are aboriginal, even though aboriginal women make up only about two per cent of the Canadian population.

posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2014 [15 favorites]


I live in downtown Toronto and know a lot people who are very aware of and engaged in this ongoing tragedy. But I also encounter a level of racism towards Native Canadians that shocks me for the multi-ethnic circles in which I move. Very reminiscent of the racism, both subtle and overt that you hear directed towards African-Americans in the US. "they're lazy", "they've been handed everything and they're still a bunch of drunks." I love my country but the attitudes expressed both in our culture and in our laws towards our founding peoples would remind some people of 1950s Alabama. It's an embarrassment.
posted by dry white toast at 12:45 PM on February 27, 2014 [16 favorites]


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posted by stoneweaver at 12:45 PM on February 27, 2014


I hope they find out who did this and stop covering up even if it's people high up. Don't cower before tyrants! I mean, I have cowered before tyrants, it's not a judgment, just.. a hope that there will be more brave people to stand up against this and not let it rest.
posted by xarnop at 12:53 PM on February 27, 2014


I hope they find out who did this and stop covering up even if it's people high up.

I take it you don't believe the sublessees are responsible?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:56 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aw, no. how utterly sad.
posted by Gelatin at 1:01 PM on February 27, 2014


(I'm sorry, I usually follow the RTFA rule before I comment but I could not read this. I just wanted to share my sorrow this happened and hope that the people who did this are held accountable, but maybe I should skip doing so if the article contains content too hard for me to read.)
posted by xarnop at 1:05 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by seyirci at 1:13 PM on February 27, 2014


I take it you don't believe the sublessees are responsible?

In this particular case, it seems that they did this act. In the hundreds of other cases across Canada, no. Those hundreds of cases that are not at all a priority for the powers that be. It's no wonder her killers thought her life was worth less than their debt - everyone is told all the time that Native women don't matter and no one cares when they're murdered.
posted by rtha at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


xarnop and everyone else- Catchfire conciously didn't put much about the criminal investigation into the OP for reasons I can understand (mentioned above) but since there does seem to be come confusion it can be clarified by pointing out there are two main narratives here:

Saunders herself is presumed at this time to have been killed by the couple that was subletting an apartment from her- they owed her several hundred dollars in back rent and were arressted last week for stealing her car (presumably the police already had their suspicions but less was public at that point).

The broader narrative that many people are commenting on here is the sort of cosmic ironic tragedy that Saunders, herself of aboriginal descent, was in the middle of working on a thesis on the high rates of violence against aboriginal women in Canada and the structural inequalities and injustices that cause it.

The quote a couple people have posted already from Darryl Leroux is heartbreakingly on target. There is no specific conspiracy against Saunders for the work she was doing; she just lived the risks that all aboriginal women face and was unlucky enough to become a tragic part of the societal trend she was studying.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:21 PM on February 27, 2014 [16 favorites]


Or, what rtha just said.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:22 PM on February 27, 2014


Fucking shit. I'm glad to be made aware of all of this, and so, so sad.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:26 PM on February 27, 2014


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I was hoping so hard for her to be okay.
posted by snorkmaiden at 1:34 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by platypus of the universe at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by SNACKeR at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 1:48 PM on February 27, 2014


Highway of Tears previously on metafilter.

(Thanks for the clarification, Wretch729)
posted by triggerfinger at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by MikeWarot at 2:04 PM on February 27, 2014


I'd just like to enter it here in the record that a serial killer murdered approximately 50 women over a period of about 10 years and almost all from my neighbourhood in Vancouver's east end. Many were Aboriginal, almost all were poor, many were sex workers and many were people who use illicit drugs. The thing they all had in common was that the police did not really care to look for them when they went missing. So, due to the antipathy and inaction of many Vancouver institutions, the killer was able to abduct and murder dozens of women, even though he took little care to conceal his actions. (The killer was later caught by a member of a different police force who was investigating the killer for unrelated gun violations and found body parts on the killer's farm.)

For me, the fact that perfectly illustrates how little regard and respect Canadians hold Aboriginal women, or poor women, or women who use drugs or who do sex work is this: After the killer was caught he was tried and convicted on four counts of murder. The Attorney General, despite calls from the families of the missing and murdered women, refused to try him on the murder of other women whose remains were found on his farm, arguing it would cost too much money. I still think that if the dead had been the mothers and daughters of Vancouver's (wealthy, largely white) west end, the killer would have swung for every count possible.
posted by docgonzo at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2014 [16 favorites]


. for her and lots of ..... for the women whose disappearances and murders she was writing about. Didn't expect to be crying at my desk today. Thanks for the post, I'm glad I know about this, even if it's heartbreaking.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:22 PM on February 27, 2014


I hope that her research proposal is published. Two days ago, I was asked why so many aboriginal women are murdered in Canada and why their murderers are rarely caught and charged. I didn't know the answer offhand, but I suspect it's related to the type of racist anti-aboriginal rhetoric we see all the time here in newspaper comments.
posted by quiet earth at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2014


"It's our doing, which Loretta articulated so clearly in her writing," writes her Thesis supervisor Darryl Leroux in a moving tribute. "[T]heft of land base, legalized segregation and racism, residential schools for several generations, continued dispossession = social chaos."

How crass can you get? A wonderful young woman is murdered by her tenants, apparently over rent money, and this guy uses it to try to make a political point that has nothing to do with the actual circumstances of her murder. Just appalling.
posted by Dasein at 2:37 PM on February 27, 2014


Even so short, a life lovingly and intelligently well lived. It's so right this information about her likely assassination has wider public knowledge, that she did not become simply disappeared. Wishing Loretta an excellent journey http://theplainsofaamjiwnaang.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/shaking-tent1.jpg?w=840
posted by nickyskye at 2:45 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by Elly Vortex at 2:46 PM on February 27, 2014


How crass can you get?

Then you might as well call her thesis proposal crass, since she was looking at the murders of women like her, and putting those murders in a larger context, one of "[T]heft of land base, legalized segregation and racism, residential schools for several generations, continued dispossession = social chaos."

The women who were murdered before her all had "actual circumstances" too - they were sex workers or they were walking along a road or etc. Her thesis was going to examine the cultural context in which they happened. Don't see what's crass about that.
posted by rtha at 2:47 PM on February 27, 2014 [29 favorites]


This is like something out of "2666", it is awful
posted by thelonius at 3:10 PM on February 27, 2014


2666 was based on a very real crime trend in Ciudad Juarez, btw.

In some ways both are reminiscent of the unsolved murders of Jefferson Davis parish, although there is a difference in scale.
posted by muddgirl at 3:28 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:29 PM on February 27, 2014


Here is Maryanne Pearce's database that St. Peepsburg was referring to. It's in google docs.
posted by aclevername at 4:20 PM on February 27, 2014


What a sickening waste of a productive life.

What a multiplicity of sorrows. All those poor women.

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posted by BlueHorse at 7:45 PM on February 27, 2014


My god, I had no idea about the staggering extent. It's like a slow-motion Juarez. I pray only that her death won't be utterly for naught in that it brings some much-needed attention to an epidemic of violence & maybe hastens a societal shift that ameliorates the danger for potential victims.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:24 PM on February 27, 2014


Henneberry and Leggette have both been charged with first-degree murder.
posted by parudox at 8:33 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by ob1quixote at 8:44 PM on February 27, 2014


How crass can you get? A wonderful young woman is murdered by her tenants, apparently over rent money, and this guy uses it to try to make a political point that has nothing to do with the actual circumstances of her murder.

So the social context doesn't matter when aboriginal women are murdered?

It's so depressing how this death actually being news and actually being taken seriously by police is a sign of progress.

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posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:53 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by driley at 9:47 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by quazichimp at 10:53 PM on February 27, 2014


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posted by homunculus at 11:41 PM on February 27, 2014


I think people are always shocked to the core when they learn about the sheer numbers of Canada's missing and murdered Aboriginal women. At least until pretty recently, the issue didn't get much media coverage. Many of the students I work with are related to these missing or murdered women because they grew up in a community along the Highway of Tears, so it's definitely not some abstract thing for them to cluck over--it's their sisters, aunties, cousins.

I remember reading a comment by someone after the Robert Pickton murders came to light that if that many women all fitting the same profile had gone missing or been found dead, but instead of "Aboriginal sex trade worker from the Downtown East Side," the profile was "UBC student," the Vancouver Police would have been on it a lot fucking faster. It's shameful how little value we place on some people's lives.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:50 PM on February 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by koucha at 7:48 AM on February 28, 2014


How crass can you get? A wonderful young woman is murdered by her tenants, apparently over rent money, and this guy uses it to try to make a political point that has nothing to do with the actual circumstances of her murder. Just appalling.

Actually it has everyfuckingthing to do with her murder. The plight of First Nations people in this country is appalling; the plight of First Nations women is even worse.

There is an enormous amount of institutionalized, systematic racism in Canada directed at First Nations peoples. Look at the fucking statistics quoted in the thread: a quarter of all women murdered in Canada are First Nations. They make up two percent of the population.

tl;dr: don't comment when you have not one clue about the context.

The treatment of First Nations in Canada is our national shame.

Canada : First Nations :: USA : African-Americans.

The parallels are stark.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:40 AM on February 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


More to the point, he was making the same political point that her entire life's work was devoted to.

A First Nations woman studying the uncared-cbout murders of Aboriginal women is, herself, murdered.

Come on. Seriously.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apart from the awful coincidence of her academic study, I don't think Loretta Saunders' murder has anything to do with the plight of First Nations people. What is outrageous about what happened in BC is that nobody noticed or cared about the disappearance of First Nations women. With Loretta Saunders it's been completely different: her disappearance has been front page news here in Halifax since the day it was reported to police by her friends. Everybody noticed, everybody cared, everybody was looking for her. We were all holding out hope, but it turns out she was murdered by a couple of psychopathic dirtbags to whom she'd rented a room in her apartment, who she probably unlucky enough to meet through Kijiji. This could have happened to anybody; her First Nations status had nothing to do with it. If anything this whole terrible couple of weeks contrasts how our society reacts when a pretty middle class girl goes missing, and when the same thing happens to somebody who's living on the margins of society.
posted by Flashman at 9:22 AM on February 28, 2014


And how do we know that these dirtbags didn't think, either consciously or as part of the casual background First Nations racism here, "fuck it, she's First Nations, nobody's going to care"?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:27 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


What is outrageous about what happened in BC

Is also something that is apparently happening in Nova Scotia, though perhaps on a smaller scale: "her thesis was to have focused on the disappearance and/or death of three indigenous women in Nova Scotia".

And this:

her First Nations status had nothing to do with it. If anything this whole terrible couple of weeks contrasts how our society reacts when a pretty middle class girl goes missing, and when the same thing happens to somebody who's living on the margins of society.

I am certain that *you* cannot be certain that her being First Nations had "nothing" to do with her murder. How are you declaring her to be a middle-class girl - did you know her and her circumstances? How are you declaring that all the other murdered Native women to be from the margins? Are you familiar with all of those cases?

See, this sounds like exactly the kind of thing she was going to study for her thesis. I guess if she had lived she wouldn't have needed to, since so many people already have the exact knowledge about all this.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


This could have happened to anybody; her First Nations status had nothing to do with it.

It's amazing how frequently one can dismiss the effects of institutional racism as one-off unrelated events.
posted by Etrigan at 10:01 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's more or less the definition of institutionalized racism I think, Etrigan. It's so pervasive that people rarely notice; when they do it must be unusual. See also rape culture.

Seriously though, anyone here saying that her being First Nations had nothing to do with her murder is wilfully blind to Canadian history. And apparently has developed telepathy.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:06 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 12:37 PM on February 28, 2014


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