Gladys Radek urges Canadians to end ‘vicious cycle of racism’

National Observer of Canada spoke with Gladys Radek, a longtime activist for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, ahead of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Radek is a First Nations woman from Gitxsan / Wet’suwet’en who became a dedicated community activist after her niece, Tamara Chipman, disappeared on the Highway of Tears in 2005. Chipman remains missing to this day today. As well as organizing walks for justice that have taken Radek across the country and becoming an advocate for the family National Investigation on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), Radek founded Matriarchs in formation, a group of young women activists in Terrace, BC, fighting for MMIWG awareness.

(This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity).

What does National Truth and Reconciliation Day mean to you?

September 30 will be stronger than ever this year. It is heartbreaking, but many of our elders have not survived, and those are the ones we will honor. I am not taking away what happened on September 11, but I would love for this government to make a list of all those whose remains they found. I want you to read it, to feel the pain our people feel, and I want you to sit there and read it, and read it, and then see if (Justin Trudeau) can apologize again. . But I can guarantee you, they probably never will because systemic racism still continues through all government policies to try to annihilate us. That’s not going to happen. And you better get used to that because we are not leaving anytime soon.

What emotions have been coming up for you recently?

I just got back from Kelowna last week and had a lot of time to reflect because it was the 16th anniversary of Tamara’s disappearance on September 21st. That day, I decided to drive down the Highway of Tears. It is such a sad thing that you can drive and you can feel the pain of those families at all times. Those little trees look like little crosses all the way along the way. I remember the places where all the girls disappeared.

I passed by the place where Nicole Hoar disappeared, the first white girl to disappear on the Highway of Tears in 2002. People began to pay attention, everyone was talking about this beautiful white girl with a beautiful smile that disappeared. Meanwhile, we were sitting there and we had already had several women and girls missing here and they were found murdered (whose cases) remain unsolved.

What meaningful action can Canadian settlers take to work toward reconciliation?

Stop signing up for us. Society in general must stop attacking us with racism. I would like to see all of our people being treated like human beings. They call us animals, but we are not animals. Animals treat their siblings and their families much better than humans.

What role does the local community organization play in promoting the MMIWG?

As National Truth and Reconciliation Day approaches, #MMIWG activist Gladys Radek urges Canadians to come out and see everyone affected by residential schools and listen and support the survivors. #ResidentialSchools #TRC

The role of the activists is basically to maintain awareness and also to support the victims and listen to the families. That is the most important thing because until now no one had heard from the families about the disappearance of their loved ones. I’d like to think that when we did those walks (for justice), people began to move, people began to pay attention to it, people began to hear what was really going on, people began to hear our truth. They need to hear that truth, they need to absorb it, and they need to be the change. That will make things better for everyone.

What should meaningful action look like to address the safety of indigenous women and girls at the government level?

I have felt quite exhausted thinking about all that our women activists have done. It seems that we are all standing here waiting for this government to move forward with some of those implementations (of the national action plan). It is going to require a lot of funds, it is going to require a lot of infrastructure. When you are building these men’s camps for resources, you better start building homes for the women and children as well. Many times what happens is that our people end up homeless because the government and industries have not adhered to the needs of the community, one of which would be affordable housing. When big industry comes along, all your rents skyrocket, your hydroelectric power, your phone bills, your groceries all skyrocket, which is exactly what happened, not just in Kitimat, but in Terrace (when the labor camps stop resource development projects were established nearby). Driving downtown now makes a really noticeable difference to have all these strangers around. We have news online about women and girls (who) have been kidnapped or nearly kidnapped. Our children are almost being kidnapped and taken off the streets. And usually First Nations women are the targets. That has to end.

This summer, more than 1,000 anonymous graves of indigenous children were confirmed on the grounds of former residential schools. In light of these findings, what action should be taken immediately?

The government and the churches really need to get rid of their records, they need to start clarifying the atrocities that they have committed. (The residential school system) was over 100 years of sexual abuse, physical abuse, spiritual abuse and trying to annihilate us, and they need to do something to stop blaming the victims, which is what they have done to us. What do I hope they do for the residential schools? They probably won’t do anything. I have no faith in that system. And they’re probably going to gather more and more bodies over the years because they’re finally taking the time to do the infrared (scan). And yet we’ve been talking about it for decades. We’ve been telling people what has been going on for decades, and now all of a sudden someone had the urge to go in and just find it, and sure enough, they did it in Kamloops. That was the most heartbreaking day for our entire Nation. I remember the silence was eerie after it happened.

We need space so that we can heal our broken hearts, for our families, for our ancestors. Healing and wellness centers are sorely needed, and the government needs to fully fund them so that we can learn about the atrocities and try to unite and forgive as a group. We don’t need to be micromanaged by white people. We want our places to be run by our own people who understand and understand our cultures.

What is one thing every Canadian settler should do on September 30?

I think they should go out there and not just see how many people were affected, that it was all of us, but go out and listen to our stories, listen to these elders, listen to what they have been through and see for yourself if I think you could survive what has happened. past here, to this genocide.

If you could get one message out to all Canadians about National Truth and Reconciliation Day, and all the issues we’ve discussed, what would it be?

Please do what you can to end this vicious cycle of racism. And support the survivors who have been through so much, and just listen to us and see, see with your eyes, that we are all human beings and that we all belong here.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I just wanted Canadians to know that we are still alive, that we are still here and that we deserve to be here as much as anyone else, here in Canada especially talking about multiculturalism, when we have so many other cultures that are easily accepted. In Canada, it is time for them to start accepting our cultures as they are.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer

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