By Mary Lynne Loftus
On Thursday, December 1st at 12:45 outside of the auditorium, approximately 35 Marianopolis students, faculty members and staff stood in a symbolic circle to express support and empathy for the Indigenous women in and around Val-d’Or.
The decision to plan the circle came as a result of recent news that Quebec prosecutors are dropping the criminal charges associated with the cases of sexual abuse inflicted on women of the aboriginal community.
In total, 21 women and seven men filed reports against Val d’Or police for cases of violence and sexual abuse.
Prosecutors claimed that they could not successfully bring abusers to justice because of a lack of evidence and the inability of complainants to identify suspects.
In a public letter, twelve of the women who were behind the allegations, stated, “We feel betrayed, humiliated and our heart is broken in pieces. It is as if in this country’s justice system, we were not important, we were left behind and we have not been heard.”
With a national inquiry that has proved to be both painful and disappointing, Native leaders are now focusing on a Quebec-based inquiry into the cases.
Although, we, the students and faculty of Marianopolis, may not be part of any legislative or judiciary body of the nation, it is important that we inform ourselves on the state of affairs of indigenous communities, empathize with the plight of these undeservingly marginalized people and raise our voices on issues that matter. As the organizer of the event stated, our school stands on unceded Mohawk territory.
Therefore, let us keep in mind the wise words of previous Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, “We owe the Aboriginal peoples a debt that is four centuries old. It is their turn to become full partners in developing an even greater Canada. And the reconciliation required may be less a matter of legal texts than of attitudes of the heart.”