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Old 11-29-2004, 03:30 PM   #2
Smokin' Ace
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Justice system failures

With little education or job opportunities, some indigenous women have nothing to turn to but the sex trade - a very dangerous occupation - to support themselves and their children. Then, when these women come in contact with the justice system, they are treated as second-class citizens.

In an example cited in ''Stolen Sisters'', Ted Malone, the judge presiding over the 1996 trial of two men charged with beating to death Pamela Jean George, a Saulteaux mother of two from Sakimay First Nation, instructed the jury to keep in mind that George was ''indeed a prostitute,'' while the men had done ''pretty darn stupid things.'' The Saskatchewan trial's outcome - six and one-half years for manslaughter for both men - was met with local protests and vigils across the nation. Both men were paroled in 2000.

''Aboriginal women and their children suffer tremendously in contemporary Canadian society [and] the justice system has done little to protect them,'' the Manitoba Justice Inquiry declared. In fact, the women are likely to end up behind bars. At one point, the commission noted, indigenous women made up 85 percent of the province's female prisoners, though they constituted about 12 percent of the female population overall.

Looking forward

Change may be forthcoming, said McKay, who believes Canada's current administration has the political will to take action. Neve agreed, adding: ''On this issue, Amnesty International Canada is lobbying government at all levels, but we'll be looking to the federal government to take the lead.''

(The next article on this topic will cover government responses.)
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