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Fighting Abroad: Canadian Soldiers in Ukraine

by Laura Modoveanu

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entering its third calendar year, there seems to be no sign of a resolution coming anytime soon. Some have decided to take matters into their own hands and offer support by enlisting as soldiers to fight for the Ukrainian side. Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, said in 2022 that over 20,000 people from 52 countries volunteered to join Ukraine’s International Defence Legion (Burke, 2022). This article looks at the stories of three Canadian veterans who have joined the conflict.

Some volunteers, like “Wali”, who has been identified by a nickname, bypassed the application process altogether. He told CBC News “We needed to get as fast as possible to the front. So we don’t have time to register the ‘clean way.’ So we just go to the border, try to meet up with somebody.” (Burke, 2022). Wali is a former sniper for the Royal 22e Regiment regiment and served in Afghanistan, which is where he earned his nickname (Brewster, 2022). He says that he crossed the border from Poland to Ukraine with three other veterans where they were met with a positive response from Ukrainians. They are now working on properly joining the fight through official channels. However, foreign fighters are being asked to sign three-year contracts which are important for ensuring legal protection (Brewster, 2022). For example, being protected by humanitarian law in the event of being captured. The transition from civilian life to seeing the conflict first-hand has been difficult, though the “hardest part” is being away from his family (Brewster, 2022). Wali also runs a humanitarian organization called the Norman Group that has volunteered to send aid to eastern Ukraine. He sums up his reasons for enlisting by simply saying, “I don’t think the Ukrainians deserve what’s going on” (Brewster, 2022).

JT, also a retired soldier, moved out of his Ottawa home, telling CBC, “I can’t sit back and watch it anymore. I have to do something” (Tunney, 2022). He explains that he joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1994 and that his experiences in Bosnia, Macedonia, Afghanistan, and more built his skills in combat engineering (Tunney, 2022). He aims to help with training but is open to help wherever he is needed and stay on to help with rebuilding. JT is especially focused on the burden the conflict is placing on younger soldiers and civilians who are “suddenly having to step up and do things that are normally repugnant to the average person” and are undergoing very traumatic conditions (Tunney, 2022). His actions go against Global Affairs Canada, which issued a travel advisory on February 1, 2022. The main danger is the lack of consular services and that the Canadian government may be unable to help citizens who are injured or captured in the conflict (Tunney, 2022). Nevertheless, JT understands that while he is only one person, “every drop fills a bucket…and ultimately, this is a fire that we need to put out.” (Tunney, 2022). He also admits that he is “prepared for whatever comes” and has “made peace with everything” in the event that he should not return home. He concludes, “But I guarantee that I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to the end if that is what happens.” (Tunney, 2022).

Dave Smith resigned from his job as a major in the Canadian armed forces to fight in Ukraine(Shannon,2024). His family was understanding, “I actually never had to explain it to them. My brother, when I told him — I was on a phone call with him and my sister — and he said something to the effect of ‘I can’t believe you’re not there already’” (Shannon, 2024). Unlike the previous examples, Smith joined a Belarussian unit that is not part of the International Legion, stating “They’re all kind of ideologically aligned with how serious I took the war. So I joined their unit” (Shannon, 2024). Though he is being paid and the Kremlin calls soldiers in his position “mercenaries”, Smith assures that he is not in it for the money; many do not “understand how ideologically motivated the foreign fighters in Ukraine are.” (Shannon, 2024). Partaking in trench warfare, the cold and snow are manageable but Smith finds his largest barrier is not language. It’s mud: “The mud in Ukraine defies physics. It gets everywhere. It’s on everything” (Shannon, 2024). On a more somber note, he recalls attending seven or eight funerals of his fellow soldiers and is now on break (Shannon, 2024). He quit the armed forces to spend time with his family but plans on rejoining later in the year. Smith calls on Western governments and the need for increased involvement, “They’re behaving quite cowardly – and they need to recognize that they need to fight, to defend themselves, if they don’t want to be defeated by people like Putin” (MacKinnon, 2023).

Overall, one might wonder what would urge these veterans to travel across the world and offer their services knowing that they are placing themselves in a potentially dangerous situation. As well as why this phenomenon is being seen for this specific conflict but not others. Also, the ability to “take a break” from the conflict is an interesting notion. Those living in the conflict zone have no such ability. With November 2023 being “the deadliest month so far for Canadians fighting in Ukraine, with three volunteers killed in action, adding to the six previously killed over the first 20 months of the war”, it is certainly a delicate environment (MacKinnon, 2023). However, these volunteer fighters are putting themselves in a dangerous situation of their own volition to fight for liberty and justice.

Works Cited

Brewster, M. (2022, March 5). Under a foreign flag: Canadian veterans explain why they’re fighting for Ukraine | CBC news. CBCnews.

Burke, A. (2022, March 11). Ukraine looking for foreign volunteers with military, medical experience, Embassy says | CBC News. CBCnews. 0

MacKinnon, M. (2023, December 18). Canadian fighters in Ukraine feel effects of West’s waning interest first-hand. The Globe and Mail. -volunteers-as-world-interest/

Shannon, R. (2024, January 6). Canadian soldier explains why he’s returning to Ukraine’s eastern trenches. Global News. /

Tunney, J. (2022, June 14). “Can’t sit back and watch”: Former Canadian soldier joins fight in Ukraine | CBC news. CBCnews.

The Ship Cemetery: A Violation of Workers Rights and Environmental Regulations in Bangladesh

by Peter Xaiver Rossetti

Massive cargo transport ships are something many tend not to think of. Despite the fact that the world is connected by these massive metal vessels traversing the world’s vast oceans and seas, transporting goods to and from ports all over the world, they remain nearly non-existent in the public imagination. Therefore it is fair to say that not much thought is ever given to what happens to these colossal steel beasts when they have reached the end of their life. This article aims to fix that. By shedding light on the industry of shipbreaking, specifically in Bangladesh, this article will present the brutal reality of what the ship cemetery is like – where ships go to die.

Shipbreaking, that is the work of dismantling old, end-of-life transport ships, has grown as an industry in the country of Bangladesh. On paper, it is a good deal for all involved. Wealthy European and North American transport companies ditch their unusable ships in Bangladesh and, in return, Bangladeshis receive wages and work and their government uses the industry to derive nearly 90% of the country’s steel supply (Rabbi & Rahman, 2017). Since 2020, the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry has ripped apart more than 520 ships, far more than any other country (Human Rights Watch, 2023). However, in reality, shipbreaking is an industry fraught with workers’ rights violations and has terrible effects on the physical environment.

For context, the International Labour Organization has designated shipbreaking as one of the most dangerous jobs a human being can perform (Human Rights Watch, 2023). In the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry, this bleak reality is coupled with the fact that workers are not at all well protected from or well informed about any potential dangers while working. This means that many Bangladeshi workers simply pick up a job as a shipbreaker and are given little to no training or education on safe procedures as well as no safety equipment such as hard-hats, tools or gloves (Human Rights Watch, 2023). The result is depressingly, but predictably, disaster. For example, as the shipbreaking industry was just beginning in Bangladesh in 2000, 50 workers died in an explosion while dismantling an old tanker (Rabbi & Rahman, 2023). Many other causes of work-related deaths include falling from extremely tall heights, lack of ventilation while working amongst leftover fumes and gasses as well as getting crushed by the massive, metal parts cut out from the ship (Rabbi & Rahman, 2023).

The effects these deaths have on the families of the workers are devastating. Many of these shipbreaking companies do not provide adequate compensation for a lost loved one, leaving these families not only emotionally distraught but financially struggling (Rabbi & Rahman, 2023). Since it is such a dangerous workplace there are always positions open in a shipbreaking yard, with many of these roles left by deceased adult workers being filled by children. Roughly 13% of those working in the shipbreaking industry are children; a number that jumps to 20% once those working the illegal night shifts are counted as well (Human Rights Watch, 2023).

The environmental cost of the shipbreaking industry is just as terrible. Instead of taking in these old ships at a proper dock or harbor, most of the time these ships simply run up onto the shore, “beaching” the vessel (Human Rights Watch, 2023). As soon as these ships have made it onto the beach, the process of shipbreaking begins right then and there. Meaning that all the leftover toxic chemicals and waste left in the ship run into the sand and are taken back out into the ocean with the tide (Human Rights Watch, 2023). An example of one of these destructive chemicals is asbestos, as many of these older ships used it as insulating material. As these ships are being taken apart, the asbestos makes its way into the beach environment, affecting local communities and marine wildlife by causing adverse health effects such as lung cancer (Rabbi & Rahman, 2017). And without any dedicated areas for shipbreaking, there is nothing preventing these chemicals from spreading.

Ultimately, the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh is absolutely destructive. It has destroyed many individual lives, families, and local beach environments and will continue to do so unchecked unless real change is made. Though as of right now, there are two reasons why this change seems unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future. Firstly, although Western governments have made it illegal to send end-of-life ships to Bangladesh, these wealthy companies based in Europe and North America have found a loophole. By using middle men from other countries not subject to these same laws, these companies have found a way to still send their ships to the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh (Human Rights Watch, 2023). The second reason lies in why these companies choose Bangladesh in the first place, namely, the fact that it is inexpensive to do so. Shipbreakers in Bangladesh are paid a fraction of the national legal minimum wage there, keeping operating costs low and hence attractive to foreign companies looking for a place to dump their old ships (Human Rights Watch, 2023).

Both of these reasons are what have allowed the shipbreaking industry to prosper in Bangladesh. And until these loopholes are patched and shipbreakers receive fair wages in Bangladesh, this stark reality will continue. The long-term adverse effects of the industry in the country are yet to be seen but further ecological degradation and lower wages for future generations can surely be speculated based on the current state of affairs discussed above. Meaning, that if things continue as they have, this ship cemetery will become the resting place for more than just transport vessels.

Works Cited

Human Rights Watch. (2023, September 28). Bangladesh: Shipping firms profit from Labor abuse.

Rabbi, H. R., & Rahman, A. (2017). Ship Breaking and Recycling Industry of Bangladesh; Issues and Challenges. Procedia Engineering, 194, 254–259.

The Danger of Privatizing Climate Data

by Elsa Rollier

Climate change has become a daily topic of discussion. Whether it is to address a new climate catastrophe, new alarming scientific reports, or to debate its causes and solutions, climate change is constantly being covered in the media, and one could therefore think that access to climate information and data is rather easy. In other words, climate data could be regarded as some kind of public good, accessible to anyone willing to do their research. While it is true that a huge amount of information about climate change is public and easily accessible, climate data is also undergoing a process of privatization. This situation has given rise to debates about the potential benefits or dangers of this process concerning climate change assessment, adaptation and mitigation. In other words: how dangerous is the privatization of climate data?

As climate scientist Justin S. Mankin points out in a recent article, climate science and information are facing a process of “commodification” (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, the business of “climate services” or “climate analytics”- i.e. the data, analyses and models (such as weather forecasts, heat warnings or flood alerts) needed to comprehend and react to climate issues – is experiencing a significant growth, leading a to lot of capital being invested in that field (Mankin, 2024; Teirstein, 2023). For instance, the market of climate risk analytics is expected to experience a growth of “more than $4 billion globally by 2027” (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, the demand for climate data by investors or companies wishing to learn how and to what extent climate change will affect them financially is effectively expanding, creating massive potential for profits that climate services companies clearly sense (Dembecki, 2019). The commodification of climate science has therefore created a “market where climate data and risk models are treated as products to be bought and sold “ (Verhulst, 2024). This shift has deeply changed our way of creating and using science, for climate services providers to focus on specific local data customized for particular actors, instead of focusing on more national or global impacts of climate risks (Dembecki, 2019).

Some private actors defend this profit-oriented approach by arguing that having a more narrow and local risk assessment is an effective way for cities, companies and states to be better prepared for climate risks (Dembecki, 2019). For instance, climate services company Jupiter executive Rich Sorkin argues that companies like his are innovative, whereas government and academic institutions can be too cautious: “We’re years ahead of what the public sector is doing” (Dembecki, 2019). For him, the competition of companies in the private sector for profit can actually lead to the adoption of new technologies (Dembecki, 2019). Also, some of these private actors nuance the idea that the growth of the climate services market replaces traditional academic research (Dembecki, 2019). However, as Mankin points out, numerous members of the scientific community choose to work in high-revenue consulting or start-up jobs, instead of national labs or academic jobs; seen as too “slow-moving” regarding the acceleration of climate change and the urgency of the issue (Mankin, 2024).

In addition, some private actors also point out that public research and data about climate change, as well as the multiple warnings climate scientists have issued, have not triggered the global action necessary to avoid climate dangers (Dembecki, 2019). Another argument advanced by some private actors is that if private investors and corporations learn about the specific local climate risks and dangers they face that could have negative financial consequences for them; they will be incentivized not only to protect their individual goods, but also to push for larger scale climate solutions (Dembecki, 2019). As CEO of climate services company Four Twenty Seven Emilie Mazzacurati argues: “We need both global policy action, and we need corporations to prepare for specific impacts, […] The realization of how complex [and costly] those impacts are … should help motivate greater policy engagement.” (Dembecki, 2019). Indeed, some argue that: “When you change the narrative and you start discussing the impact that climate change will have on them rather than how evil they are … then you have a completely different conversation,”, which is “likely to trigger action” (Dembecki, 2019). But how much action does this dynamic actually trigger? Probably not as much as these actors would like. To illustrate this, Dembecki takes the example of the oil company Royal Dutch Shell, which in 2017, after learning about the negative financial consequences a shift towards lower-carbon energy could have on their business, chose to divest $7.25 billion from Canada’s oil sands. However, this action did not stop the company from spending $53 billion to buy fossil fuel company BG Group, while still making most of its profit through the fossil fuel industry (Dembecki, 2019).

Therefore, it is wise to question who actually gains from the development of this private climate services market, and whether the self-interest of powerful private actors actually aligns with society’s general interest. As Svenja Keele, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, affirms: “We need to be alert to the possibility that [climate] service delivery models — couched in the language of entrepreneurialism, efficiency, utility, customization, and flexibilization — merely entrench the status quo … rather than support transformational and equitable responses to climate change” (Dembecki, 2019). This reality is even acknowledged by private actors such as Sorkin: “We don’t really see underdeveloped communities or countries as profit generators for us”, admitting that the approach of the private sector isn’t likely to help most vulnerable communities (Dembecki, 2019). Accordingly, the risk of privatizing climate data is to render information about climate risks inaccessible to disadvantaged communities – who are also the most affected by climate change (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, in this situation, only people who have the resources to pay for expensive private risk analyses and assessment will have access to the necessary information to prepare themselves, or to navigate through the complex public data already available (Mankin, 2024). On the other hand, people who do not have the money to afford such analyses will remain exposed to climate risks without having the right tools to prepare for them (Mankin, 2024). This could indeed have very serious consequences, as Mankin illustrates through the example of “AccuWeather”, a weather data company offering public and free weather forecasts, as well as premium “customized” forecasts for clients paying a fee (Mankin, 2024). One of the company’s clients, a railroad company called “Union Pacific”, used AccuWeather’s customized service and was warned of an approaching tornado, which it was, therefore, able to avoid (Mankin, 2024). However, that same tornado caused the death of a dozen people in a town that did not pay for AccuWeather’s customized data and did not, therefore, have access to the proper information to prepare themselves for this climate danger (Mankin, 2024). In addition, another risk of depending on the private sector to access climate data is that information coming from private companies does not face the same “scrutiny” as public science, which could lead to a lack of transparency concerning the efficacy and risks of their models (Mankin, 2024).

The importance of having access to climate data led Mankin to evoke the concept of a “right to science” (Mankin, 2024). Indeed, as he points out, the UN Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which was adopted by almost 200 countries, aims to strengthen “the global response to climate change by increasing the ability of all to adapt and build resilience, and reduce vulnerability.”(Mankin, 2024). This includes the right to access the information necessary to adapt to climate change, which could be considered a fundamental right for humanity (Mankin, 2024). Providing such access would demand various efforts from private and public actors. Some, like Verhulst, introduced the concept of “data collaboratives”, where private and public actors create innovative partnerships in order to make data more accessible to serve public interest goals (Verhulst, 2024). Another solution to provide publicly available climate information could be websites where people would “quickly access a clear climate risk assessment for where they live based on validated, transparent and reproducible science without entering their credit card information to pay for it” (Mankin 2024). Universities could also “develop and make available customized information on local climate threats and how to best manage them” while building connections with their communities (Mankin 2024). In other words “The goal should be to create an ecosystem where data is not just a commodity to be traded but a resource to empower communities and science and foster a more informed, equitable world” (Verhulst, 2024).

The private sector will obviously very likely continue to produce data and services relating to climate. But it is important that it is not the only or the primary actor to do so. Climate data serves multiple purposes and its accessibility is essential for communities to be able to assess their exposure to climate risks, prepare for and manage it. Providing public access to understandable climate risk data and assessments to everyone regardless of resources is therefore necessary. As Mankin points out: “Global warming is a collective tragedy, and so its solutions, especially around information for adapting to the risks it portends, must be a public good” (Mankin, 2024).

Works Cited

Mankin, J. S. (2024, January 20). The people have a right to climate data. The New York Times.

Hardoon, D. (n.d.). To leave no one behind, we must use data to address climate inequalities. Development Initiatives.

Teirstein, Z. (2023, November 27). Climate data saves lives. most countries can’t access it. Canada’s National Observer. t-access-it

Verhulst, S. G. (2024, January 23). Are we entering a “Data winter”? Medium.

Dembicki, G. (2019, September 30). Climate data is being privatized. will the public lose out?. Undark Magazine.

No More Stolen Sisters: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada

By Mai-Lan Johnston and Aina De Lapparent Álvarez. Image from


While the female Indigenous population represents about 4.3% of the total female population in Canada, indigenous women are disproportionately exposed to violence, and the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is disproportionately high (Pederson). In more detail, there are 115 reported incidents of sexual assault per thousand Indigenous women per year, compared with 35 incidents per thousand non-Indigenous women. 160 in 1000 Indigenous women are victims of violent crime, compared with 74 victims in 1000 of non-Indigenous women (Social Development Canada). Moreover, the aforementioned statistics on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are bound to a broader, more systemic problem in Canada. For example, in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, First Nations children living on-reserve experience a poverty rate (62% and 64% respectively) three times higher than non-Indigenous children (15% and 16% respectively) (“Half of First Nations”). These statistics, and many others, support the fact that Indigenous populations are victim to socially biased institutions that often exist to serve the political agendas of the government and neglect the needs of indigenous peoples. Further, reconciliation efforts are often settler-driven rather than driven by indigenous peoples themselves.

In recent years, advocacy organizations such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada and  Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have drawn the far overdue attention of the media and non-Indigenous public to the victimization of Indigenous women in predominantly non-Indigenous communities. However, the new public attention arguably underestimates the reach of this problem; the number of high profile cases that filter through the news cycle do not justly represent the true range of this problem. It is our intention that this article, by explaining a brief history, outlining a handful of the several systemic issues involved, drawing attention to current cases, and providing an update to what is currently being done about the problem, will allow readers to gain a deeper understanding of the victimization of Indigenous women and girls in Canada.


In order to gain a deeper understanding of the root causes of the broader social marginalization of Indigenous people, the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada must be situated in the larger context of Canadian colonial history. More specifically, Indigenous women have been challenged by distinctively troubling problems that can be traced back to the first days of settler-colonialism in Canada. Settler men referred to Indigenous women as “Indian princesses,” stereotyping promiscuity and therefore propagating the sexual vulnerability of these Indigenous women. Colonialism resulted in the death of countless indigenous people, uprooted Indigenous people from their ancestral land and placed them on reserves, took indigenous children from their families and placed them in abusive residential schools, imposed colonial gender roles and norms, and generally sought to eradicate Indigenous culture, values, lifestyles, and peoples. The anger and frustration that came with the eradication of Indigenous culture often materialized as violence against women. The Indian Act was first enforced in 1869 and began the legal discrimination that Indigenous people have suffered since. The legally-binding, wholly unjust Indian Act ultimately posed as justification for perpetual and wide-ranging discrimination against Indigenous people. It intended to enable the Canadian federal government to have absolute control over Indigenous life, to manipulate and to “fix” (read: erase) indigenous culture. In 1985, Bill C-31s was amended to the Indian Act, with the intention of bringing the Indian Act into closer alignment with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in terms of discrimination against women. However, several First Nations women have spoken out about their dissatisfaction with Bill-31s, as land and funds dedicated to Indigenous communities are severely limited (Pederson).  Unfortunately,  recent history is equally as disturbing than the history inflicted by colonialist settlers.

Systemic Background of Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada

The statistics on violence and poverty mentioned in the introduction support the notion that Indigenous people continue be victims of systemic and socially biased institutions that serve the political and economic agenda of the Canadian government.

Crimes against women in Indigenous communities should be understood as part of a wider scope of social turmoil caused largely by government policies that attempt to erode Indigenous culture. Going as far back as the Indian Act (1876), which continues to exist (with amendments), the federal government has control of “Indian” education, land, resources, and band administration (“Background: Indian Act”). Perhaps most regrettable is the ongoing and detrimental impact of Residential Schools on Indigenous peoples’ cultural life. The dark legacies of these policies promote a high poverty rate, poor education opportunities, and a society of high crime in Indigenous communities. Further, due to the government’s arguably ineffective efforts to amend the past, the homicide and missing persons’ rates for Indigenous women and girls is disproportionately high. Between 1980 and 2012, roughly 1017 women and girls who identify as indigenous were murdered (not including undocumented, unreported, or unexplained deaths) – a rate approximately 4.5 times higher than that of all other Canadian women. A 2013 report states that there are at least 105 Indigenous girls missing under suspicious circumstances (“Missing and Murdered”).

The cycle of poverty and crime stems from the lack of education available in Indigenous communities. Compared with the settler culture of “degrees equals job opportunity,” formal education is severely less available for on-reserve Indigenous peoples. In fact, 20% of Metis, 47% of First Nations on reserve, and 49% of Inuit populations do not have high school diplomas, while 12% of Canada’s total population does not have high school diplomas (Social Development Canada). The insufficient or non-existent provincial government funding for schools in Indigenous communities is the cause of low education availability for Indigenous peoples, and is representative of the broader social marginalization caused by the both provincial and federal governments.  In British Columbia (BC) – the only province with supplemental agreements for education funds for Indigenous populations, the per-student funding for First Nations students is approximately 20% less than those students in provincial public schools. Outside of BC, funding for Indigenous students is about 37% less than their non-Indigenous counterparts.  This severe deficit in funding results in poor infrastructure, an inability to obtain and retain quality teachers, less educational programs, and overall less opportunity for indigenous students (Moore). Now, consider this – an Indigenous person unable to achieve a high school diploma is seeking a job outside of their reserve. They enter into a world where a high school diploma is an assumed achievement, and they are regrettably unprepared at no fault of their own. Unemployment becomes their new reality, and poverty is soon to follow. Studies have shown that one’s income level is highly correlated with their probability of being a victim of crime (Social Development Canada). The high crime rates, particularly with regards to women, can be attributed to the equally high rates of poverty among Indigenous communities caused by a severe lack of educational opportunities.

The issues caused by the overarching social marginalization of Indigenous communities fosters an unhealthy culture of substance abuse and mental illness that some indigenous people struggle with (as a result of their social, political, and economic colonialism). Many indigenous families have lost a family member to suicide or addiction.  The overshadowing shame historically inflicted by the government continues to invade the lives of indigenous peoples in Canada. As one Indigenous woman said in a hearing as part of Canada’s National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, “the federal government made us wards of the state through the Indian Act and we learnt helplessness. We became ashamed of ourself. We believed what society was telling us” (“Part 1: Families and Survivors”). This heartbreaking testimony is only one of many, and clearly exhibits the brutal psychological impact that society-wide shaming has had on a community. In the context of violence against Indigenous women, many abusers were victims of residential schools and similarly, a lot of victims were residential school survivors (“Part 1: Families and Survivors”). The lack of resources to cope with life after residential schools coupled with existing in the anger of their personal and ancestral pasts only further promotes a cycle of violence against women and social turmoil in Indigenous communities.

When attempting to connect settler and Indigenous histories, Indigenous history is often portrayed incorrectly. This slows the process of reconciliation. Non-indigenous Canadians are miseducated about Indigenous peoples by their teachers and parents who were taught by generations of misinformed settler Canadians. Continuation of the incorrect education of Indigenous peoples’ histories and experiences will only further entrench a division between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. Ending the unequal treatment of Indigenous peoples and reducing the rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada will require cooperation between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Canadians, but without accurate shared information and a clear understanding of each other’s histories, this will be impossible.

The repeated violence against the culture and collective identity of Indigenous peoples has debilitated the foundation of Indigenous communities and society. The isolation and forced withdrawal of Indigenous peoples from the rest of Canadian society cultivates social problems for the individuals and the communities, which only further promote the social marginalization that increases the risk of violence faced by women.

Current Cases

There are many ongoing cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Below are some of the most recent known cases, keeping in mind that many cases go unreported. Amnesty Interntional University of Toronto mourns the loss of these women and urges capable bodies to do what they can to address this issue. We must continue to shed light on the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women by engaging in conversations, supporting organizations that do necessary work, lobbying the government to take adequate steps, and refusing to be silenced. May these women rest in power. The impact they had on their communities is far greater than the hate that took their lives.

Chantel John – Conne River, Newfoundland: Chantel, murdered at age 28, was a member of the Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi First Nation. Her ex-boyfriend Kirk Keeping was arrested by RCMP, accused of first degree murder. The Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi First Nation stated that Chantel’s case is representative of Canada’s national crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women (“Man Charged”).

Ashley Morin – North Battleford, Sakatchewan: 31 year-old Ashley Morin was reported missing on January 11, 2019 – she was last seen on July 10, 2018. Her family hung red dresses on trees around the city, symbolizing missing and murdered Indigenous women (“Vigil to Be Held”).Erica Hill O’Watch – Regina, Saskatchewan:

Erica Hill O’Watch – Regine, Saskatchewan: ‘Erica was pronounced dead at the scene of a house party on October 13, 2018.  The 16 year old’s friends and family are now honouring Hill-O’Watch with a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Logo. A 15 year-old boy was was arrested and charged with second-degree murder (“I Don’t Get to See Her Fall in Love”). Dianne Mae Bignell – Thomson, Manitoba:

Dianne Mae Bignell – Thomson, Manitoba: 60 year-old Dianne was last seen on her birthday on May 17, 2018. The RCMP have assured her daughter Clara Bignell that they are actively working on finding her mother (“Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women”).

Jeanenne Chantel Fontaine – Winnipeg, Manitoba: 29 year-old Jeanenne was shot dead in March 2017. On January 19, 2019, a jury found Christopher Brass and Jason Meilleur to be guilty of manslaughter. Jeanenne’s father, Eugene Fontaine was found beaten to death in 2011. Jeanenne’s cousin, 15 year old Tina Fontaine, was found dead in Red River in August of 2014. Jeanenne’s case is representative of how it is common for Indigenous families to experience the loss of  several family members to targeted violence (Malone).

Monica Jack – Vancouver, British Columbia: Monica was sexually assaulted and strangled to death when she was 12 years old in 1978. Her skull and bones were found 17 years later. On January 17, 2019, Garry Handlen was charged for the first-degree murder of Monica. Handlen was involved in a supposed gang organization. He told his crime boss that he grabbed and “Indigenous girl,” threw her bike in a lake, forced her into the bathroom of his camper and drove up a rough hill where he killed her (Bains).

Cassidy Bernard – Cape Breton, Nova Scotia: 22 year-old Cassidy was found unresponsive in her home in the We’koqma’q First Nation on October 24, 2018. A $100,000 reward has been offered by the We’koqma’q band council for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in connection with Cassidy’s death. The RCMP have labelled Cassidy’s death as “suspicious,” and have yet to confirm or deny the case as homicide (“Police Still Tight-Lipped”).

Cindy Gladue– Edmonton, Alberta: In June 2011, Cindy, a 36-year old Metis woman, bled to death in a bathtub in a motel room. Cindy was described to have suffered from drug addiction and poverty. Bradley Barton was accused but found not guilty by a jury of manslaughter and first-degree murder. The case revealed that Barton and Gladue had “consensual” but extremely violent sex that left the victim with an 11cm cut in her vagina. Following nationwide protests, the Crown appealed, and the Alberta Court of Appeal ordered a new trial that began in October 2018. The Appeal Court ruled that there were serious errors in the original trial. The Appeal court also claims that the judge’s charge to the jury about Barton’s conduct, as well as how consent is defined and understood as it pertains to sexual assault legislation. The Alberta Crown will argue to the Supreme Court to set precedent for if an “objective likelihood of harm” cancels out sexual consent. Similarly to how someone killed in a fist fight didn’t consent to bodily harm (Purdy).

Mary Yellowback – Winnipeg, Manitoba: The 33 year-old mother of six was found dead in a recycling depot. She lived on Manto Sipi Cree Nation in northern Manitoba and was visiting Winnipeg for a medical appointment for her son. Her death has been ruled as “suspicious,” however police have yet to confirm if her death was a homicide. News of Mary’s death spread as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held hearings in Winnipeg. The homicide unit in Winnipeg is continuing to investigate Mary’s death (“‘It’s Tragic’”).

What is currently being done?

Addressing indigenous peoples’ and indigenous and non-indigenous activists’ demands, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women began in 2016.  This entity promises to included affected families in the process while respecting the traumatic nature of these issues as well as respecting diversity. It seeks to conclude by proposing concrete steps to prevent more women from undergoing this violence. Thus the intentions were to work coast to coast, which is a major divergence from the previous practice of understanding and deciding on issues related to indigenous wellbeing from Ottawa. While the entity was composed of four Commissioners from across the country, one quit, and while the commission was supposed to submit its report by December 31st 2018, it was granted an extension of five months, which raises several questions. Was the budget of $53 million insufficient? Was the breadth and depth of task underestimated?  The slow pace of the commission raised concerns in indigenous communities over what can be perceived as a lack of interest or partial engagement, which is not contributive to the government’s supposed attempts towards reconciliation.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada also pursued outreach programs through artistic workshops. For example, the artist Gloria Larocque, creator of the “Aboriginal Angel Doll Project” was asked to explore the visual representation of strong and beautiful indigenous women who have become ‘faceless’ victims of crime to give back these women their story and some agency, so they live in the memory of not only their families but also other Canadians. Larocque created a traveling art exhibit of more than 600 Faceless Dolls. This idea was well received and seemed to respond to some concrete demands of restoring dignity to women who were subject to this violence. Families, community members, teachers, and allies continue to reach out to the NWAC to replicate the concept of the exhibition.

Non-governmental actors have also been involved in advancing this issue. Most notably, Sisters In Spirit (SIS) distinguished itself because it was driven and led by indigenous women. Similar to the NWAC, it sought to produce knowledge and disseminate it, first by filling the gap on statistical information on violence against indigenous women. As a matter of fact, only Manitoba could provide the public with information similar to the information produced by Sisters in Spirit. The database is extraordinaily complex as it takes 200 variables into account, and it remains active. Thus, it allows for complex analysis of patterns as well as visualizations of it. SIS also did considerable work in preserving the memory of those who were lost to this violence.

Moving Forward

Amnesty International has pointed out that the perspective in which the Canadian government is framing this issue detracts from the push towards more effective action . In effect, refusing to apply the category of “torture” to such a crisis because it is perpetrated by non-state actors is to miss the point. It is a very narrow understanding of the UN definition of torture, one that applies to a past where states were the main actors for torture, at least in its historical documentation.

While we appreciate the National Commission’s effort to produce the best report, the demand for an extension proved that Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and Indigenous communities were right in their complaint that the process was slow. Further, the announcement of a deadline extension came to many as a surprise. If the National Commission wants to operate on less of a top-down approach, it ought to improve its communication strategy by involving key actors to corroborate with the government’s announced intention to move towards reconciliation.  Amnesty International has long asked for a National Action Plan, addressing gaps in policy, specially in prevention and in dealing with new cases promptly.


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“’I Don’t Get to See Her Fall in Love’: Mother Mourns Teen Killed at House Party.” CTV News Regina, 10 Jan. 2019,

“’It’s Tragic’: Father of Woman Found Dead in Winnipeg Recycling Depot Pleads for Information.” Winnipeg, 3 Oct. 2018,

Malone, Kelly Geraldine. “’She Was Loved’: Man Gets 15-Year Sentence in Shooting Death of Jeanenne Fontaine.” CTVNews, 24 Jan. 2019,

“Man Charged with First-Degree Murder of Newfoundland Indigenous Woman.” CTVNews, 11 Jan. 2019,

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Labour Rights and the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup

By Sarah Taupan. Image from

Gulf countries such as the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have become the primary destination region for foreign workers globally, and the numbers have been steadily increasing in recent years. The proportion of foreign to local workers in these areas are amongst the highest in the world. Many of these workers are manual labourers or domestic workers and suffer from exploitation and severe human rights violations. Transnational labour migration has become one of the most remarkable features of our globalizing world, with a network of over 214 million workers having crossed national borders to date. Migration within the Gulf states alone constitutes 10% of that and Saudi Arabia and the UAE host the 4th and 5th largest migrant populace in the world. Coming from mainly Asia and Africa, these workers seek opportunities in these regions to escape poverty and unemployment only to be met with hefty fees from recruitment agencies, long working hours, inadequate pay, and no time off from jobs that often differ vastly from the ones they signed up for back home. Many are caught in slave-like conditions, where they are unpaid and unable to leave their jobs. The UN estimates that 600,000 migrant workers in the region can be characterized as victims of human trafficking.

Furthermore, migrants are often unable to leave the country of residence as their employers hold back their paperwork. In most of these cases the employers will seize the workers’ passports upon arrival. There have been various reports of abuse, frozen wages, and excessive workloads. There are also documented incidents of psychological, physical and sexual violence. The visa sponsorship system (kafala), as well as the lack of labour laws, leaves foreign workers vulnerable to abuse. The kafala system binds migrant worker to an employer, who acts as their sponsor, this makes it difficult for them to leave or change jobs. If the worker tries to leave their sponsor before their contract ends, they will be considered to have “abandoned” their job. This usually results in disciplinary actions such as fines and deportation.

In December 2010, Qatar celebrated its bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In their groundwork, Qatar is set to spend an estimated $100 billion USD on infrastructure, which includes eight new hotels and stadiums, a new airport, and a transportation system for fans. As a result, human rights organizations have expressed concern over abuses of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, over 1,200 migrant workers have died so far while working on projects relating to the upcoming World Cup. The government has claimed to have improved working conditions for foreigners recently, and have allowed migrant workers to travel without their employers’ consent in September. However, these reforms are generally insufficient and lack stringent enforcement. Investigations have found that laws protecting workers from operating during the hottest hours of the day have often not been imposed. Additionally, they have found that employers continue to seize the passports of their staff, despite new reforms.

The reality of migrant lives is illustrated in a report by Amnesty International, which found that a recruitment company had been leaving workers unpaid for months. The workers they spoke to said that they paid amounts ranging from US$500 to US$4,300 to fraudulent agencies in their home country, leaving many in debt. This makes them scared to leave their jobs when they arrive in Qatar, and many are prohibited from leaving work sites altogether. The agents also promise fake salaries to workers, one migrant worker said he was promised a salary of US$300 back home in Nepal, but once he started work in Qatar, that number quickly dropped to $190US. When workers complain about their conditions, seek help, or demand promised wages, they are either ignored or threatened by their sponsors. Migrants who refuse to work can be delivered to the police for deportation, without receiving the pay they are owed. Some Nepalese workers that were interviewed have taken their children out of school or have had to sell land, in order to pay the debts they incurred for their migration to Qatar.

Many have called for the boycott of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to its slave-like labour conditions. Major concerns surrounding preparation for the games include the exploitative “kafala” sponsorship system; Amnesty International has called on Qatar to completely abolish the sponsorship system. Despite a few recent changes, the program continues to cause the lack of freedom of association, the right to form unions as well as the confiscation of passports; and hazardous working and living conditions. The program means that they can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country and they often wait months to get paid, if they are paid at all. Meanwhile, FIFA, its sponsors, and the development companies involved are set to make massive financial gains from the tournament.

Works Cited:

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