Search for "missing and murdered women"

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Indigenous Women's Issues in Canada

First NationsMétis and Inuit women (collectively referred to as Indigenous women) face many socio-economic issues today because of the effects of colonization. Europeans forced a male-controlled system of government and society (known as patriarchy) on Indigenous societies. The 1876 Indian Act disadvantaged certain Indigenous women by excluding them from band council government and enforcing discriminatory measures that took away Indian Status rights. Many Indigenous women today are leading the way in the area of healing the wounds of colonization, as they grapple with the issues of residential schools, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, abuse and violence, and drug, alcohol and other addictions. (See also Indigenous Feminisms in Canada.)

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Plain-Language Summary)

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) started working in 2008. It was a result of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRRSA). The IRRSA recognized the suffering and trauma experienced by Indigenous students at residential schools. It also provided financial compensation (money) to the students. The TRC performed many tasks. It created a national research centre. It collected documents from churches and government. It held events where students told their stories. Also, it did research about residential schools and issued a final report.

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Tina Fontaine

Tina Michelle Fontaine (born 1 January 1999 in Winnipeg, MB; died between 9 and 17 August 2014 in Winnipeg). Tina Fontaine’s murder highlighted systemic problems in Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women and girls and galvanized calls for government reforms in Manitoba’s care of youth. Combined with the acquittal of Fontaine’s accused killer, Raymond Cormier, her death led to demands for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This resulted in the formation of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) on 1 September 2016.

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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada (MMIWG) refers to a human rights crisis that has only recently become a topic of discussion within national media. Indigenous women and communities, women’s groups and international organizations have long called for action into the high and disproportionate rates of violence and the appalling numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Prior to the launch of the national public inquiry on 8 December 2015, these calls were continually ignored by the federal government. Described by some as a hidden crisis, Dawn Lavell-Harvard, former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, refers to MMIWG as a national tragedy and a national shame. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada supported the call for a national public inquiry into the disproportionate victimization of Indigenous women and girls. The National Inquiry’s Final Report was completed and presented to the public on 3 June 2019.

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Brooke Henderson

Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, golfer (born 10 September 1997 in Smiths Falls, ON). Golf phenom Brooke Henderson has won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s best female athlete three times (2015, 2017, 2018), as well as the ESPY Award for best female golfer in 2019. She is the youngest golfer ever to win a professional golf tournament (at age 14), the youngest ever to win the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship (at age 15), and the second youngest female golfer ever to win a major title (at age 18). She holds the record for most victories (nine) by a Canadian professional golfer on either the PGA or LPGA Tour, beating the previous record of eight held by George Knudson, Sandra Post and Mike Weir. In 2015, she became the first Canadian to win on the LPGA Tour since Lorie Kane in 2001. In 2016, Henderson became the second Canadian woman to win a major tournament (since Post in 1968) and the second Canadian ever to win the CP Women’s Open (after Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973).

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Frances Oldham Kelsey

​Frances Oldham Kelsey, CM, pharmacologist (born 24 July 1914 in Cobble Hill, BC; died 7 August 2015 in London, ON). As an employee of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Kelsey blocked the sale of thalidomide in the United States. The drug, which had been widely prescribed in Europe and Canada, was later shown to cause severe birth defects in children whose mothers had taken the drug while pregnant. In recognition of her “exceptional judgment” and determination, Kelsey received the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. Kelsey and her work have been widely lauded in the United States but are less known in Canada. She was made a Member of the Order of Canada shortly before her death.

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Biruté Galdikas

Biruté Marija Filomena Galdikas, OC, primatologist, conservationist, educator (born 10 May 1948 in Wiesbaden, Germany). Galdikas is the world’s leading authority on orangutans. She has studied them in Indonesian Borneo since 1971. She is also involved in conservation and rehabilitation efforts for orangutans. Galdikas forms part of a trio of primatologists nicknamed the “Trimates,” along with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. Galdikas spends part of the year in Indonesia and teaches half time at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

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Lady Lansdowne

Maud Evelyn Petty-Fitzmaurice, Marchioness of Lansdowne, viceregal consort of Canada from 1883 to 1888 and Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Alexandra (born 17 December 1850 in Strabane, Ireland; died 21 October 1932 in London, United Kingdom).

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Lady Grey

Alice, Countess Grey, viceregal consort of Canada from 1904 to 1911 (born 18 November 1858 in London, United Kingdom; died 22 September 1944 in Lowood, United Kingdom).

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Highway of Tears

The Highway of Tears refers to a 724 km length of Yellowhead Highway 16 in British Columbia where many women (mostly Indigenous) have disappeared or been found murdered. The Highway of Tears is part of a larger, national crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In 2015, the federal government launched a national inquiry into these cases.

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Indigenous Feminisms in Canada

At their root, Indigenous feminisms examine how gender and conceptions of gender influence the lives of Indigenous peoples, historically and today. Indigenous feminist approaches challenge stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, gender and sexuality, for instance, as they appear in politics, society and the media. Indigenous feminisms offer frameworks for learning about and understanding these, and other issues, regardless of one’s gender or ethnicity.

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Maria Campbell

Maria Campbell, O.C., Cree-Métis writer, playwright, filmmaker, scholar, teacher and elder (born 26 April 1940 in Park Valley, SK). Campbell’s memoir Halfbreed (1973) is regarded as a foundational piece of Indigenous literature in Canada for its attention to the discrimination, oppression and poverty that some Métis women (and Indigenous people, in general) experience in Canada. Campbell has authored several other books and plays, and has directed and written scripts for a number of films. As an artist, Campbell has worked with Indigenous youth in community theatre and advocated for the hiring and recognition of Indigenous people in the arts. She has mentored many Indigenous artists during her career.

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Catharine Parr Traill

Catharine Parr Traill, née Strickland, pioneer writer, botanist (born 9 January 1802 in London, England; died 29 August 1899 in Lakefield, ON). Catharine Parr Traill’s books are some of the earliest in the Canadian literary canon. Works such as The Backwoods of Canada: Being Letters from the Wife of an Emigrant Officer (1836) offer detailed descriptions of pioneer life in Canada, while Canadian Wildflowers (1868) and Studies of Plant Life in Canada (1885) showcase her skill as an amateur botanist.

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Kathleen Wynne

Kathleen O’Day Wynne, 25th premier of Ontario 2013–18, member of provincial parliament 2003–present, school trustee, community activist, mediator, teacher (born 21 May 1953 in Toronto, ON). The skills of a mediator, coupled with a strong sense of will, propelled Kathleen Wynne’s political career, making her Ontario’s first woman premier and Canada’s first openly gay head of government.

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Nichola Goddard

Nichola Goddard, MSM, soldier (born 2 May 1980 in Madang, Papua New Guinea; died 17 May 2006 in Afghanistan). Captain Nichola Goddard was the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat. Her death shocked the nation and was widely covered by Canadian news media. Although many Canadians believed that military combat was a job for men, Goddard’s story revealed the commitment, service and sacrifice of women in the Canadian armed forces.

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Canadian Women and War

Canada has been involved in various wars from the beginning of its colonial history. Just as the nature of these wars has changed over time, so too has their effect on Canadian women. Women have actively participated in war, from nursing and munitions manufacturing during the First and Second World Wars to the increasing involvement of Canadian women in the military.

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Roberta Jamieson

Roberta Louise Jamieson, OC, Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) lawyer, ombudsman, Six Nations chief, policy advisor, senior mediator, businesswoman (born in 1953 at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory near Brantford, ON). Jamieson was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a law degree (1976); first non-Parliamentarian appointed to a House of Commons committee (1982); first woman appointed ombudsman in Ontario (1989); and first woman elected as Six Nations chief (2001).

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Emily Stowe

Emily Howard Jennings Stowe, physician, teacher, school principal, suffragist (born 1 May 1831 in Norwich, Ontario; died 30 April 1903 in Toronto, Ontario). Stowe was a founder of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association. She is considered to be the first female physician to publicly practise medicine in Ontario. She was also the first female principal of a public school in Ontario. 

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Emily Carr

Emily Carr, painter, writer (born 13 December 1871 in Victoria, BC; died 2 March 1945 in Victoria).