Solutions needed to ensure safety for all
- Alyson Bear | March 18, 2021
As the pandemic persists, solutions need to come to the forefront to protect all people in society, which means creating more safe spaces for everyone. As this month is Women’s History month, I want to highlight some women who left us too soon due to ongoing systemic racism that is imbedded in our society.
Kimberly Squirrel was found frozen in Saskatoon three days after being released from Pine Grove Correctional Centre in late January. There should be a public inquiry into the death of Kimberly, a 34-year-old mother of six from Yellow Quill First Nation. Her death demonstrates the inadequate services and programs for people who are incarcerated and released from Saskatchewan's corrections system.
This is not uncommon for those incarcerated to be faced with extreme adversities when they are released. It is known that Indigenous peoples are over-represented in the criminal justice system and this is the result of the lack of prevention being implemented in our communities. There is an ongoing lack of services, programs, supports and safe spaces to heal. Colonialism continues to intrude and impose itself in our lives like a plague, with only band-aid solutions offered.
Programs such as the Elizabeth Fry Society visit institutions to try to connect with the women and build relationships, but cannot do that right now because of the pandemic. Access to resources for incarcerated women is difficult, and that situation has been made worse by COVID-19.
Why are there inquires but no action, no prevention, no safe spaces? Why is it that Cindy Gladue’s murderer was finally charged with manslaughter 10 years since her death and this is seen as “justice?” Do not get me wrong, it is a good thing that 52-year old Bradley Barton has been finally convicted with manslaughter, but this should have never happened in the first place.
Cindy should not have been in that situation and it could have been different if there were adequate access to services, programs and safe spaces in the first place. Cindy was a 36-year-old Métis and Cree mother of three. Barton was acquitted by a jury in 2015. The case made it to the Supreme Court of Canada, where judges ordered Barton to stand trial for manslaughter. It only took one day of deliberations for the jury to find him guilty.
These are the women we must remember. Kimberly’s and Cindy’s lives mattered, just as the many Indigenous men, women and children who have died in the care of the Saskatchewan government. Inquests have resulted in recommendations for the government that appear to not be followed as these injustices continue to persevere and expose the lack of action being taken.
Why is it our community continues to focus on creating better opportunities for those who already have opportunities and not for those who have barrier after barrier to navigate due to colonialism and capitalism? When will enough be enough? Why are we not taking care of the most vulnerable in society? Why is it we are unable to close the gaps on the disparities our community faces when it comes to systemic oppression and homelessness?
As stated earlier, it is Women’s history month and emerging from a world in which strength is associated to men and not women, where patriarchy has infiltrated our homes, communities, lives and thoughts, the only defence against this thought of superiority and inferiority is to address the issue. The next step is to implement action rather than just speaking about it. It is time to create those safe spaces for our women and children to thrive and feel safe.
This is close to my heart as a mother when I hear these stories about Cindy and Kimberley and how their children have to now navigate this world without their mothers for reasons that could have been prevented if our society took taking care of its people more seriously. This is the goal for the future - to connect, build and create more safe spaces for everybody in society - women, children, elders, and men, because at the end of the day we are all in this together.