Sunday October 25, 2015

Are we ignoring missing and murdered indigenous men?

Community members calling for an MMIW inquiry at a recent Montreal event.

Community members calling for an MMIW inquiry at a recent Montreal event. (CBC)

Listen 13:27

It was a campaign issue in the recent federal election. There's even an #MMIWG hashtag. After decades of activism, the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women is finally on the radar of the public.

But what about indigenous men and boys?

Aboriginal men account for approximately 71 per cent of aboriginal homicide victims in Canada, but rates of violence against indigenous men don't seem to mobilize the same kind of support or interest — and haven't been studied to the same extent. Dr. Adam Jones, a professor of political science at UBC Okanagan, wants to change that.

In his work as a comparative genocide scholar, Jones has embarked on a project to understand "patterns of violent victimization against men and boys," and place it in the context of gendered violence as a whole. 

According to Jones, data on male-focused gendered violence is largely absent, and is like searching for "needles in a haystack." When asked why he believes the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal men has failed to capture national attention, he said stereotypes are partially to blame. 

'I think it gets at some very deep stereotypes in our culture — of the vulnerable, helpless woman and child. There's some deeper cultural biases that need to be reckoned there.'  - Adam Jones

Jones also said he believes that the MMIW issue has become "politicized" and "a feminist cause célèbre." 

On this point, Unreserved host Rosanna Deerchild asked Jones for clarification, noting that it was primarily "families and friends of missing and murdered indigenous women [that] made this an issue."

Jones stresses that it's important for men and women, indigenous and non-indigenous, to advocate across gender lines and show solidarity with each other. He recently wrote an op-ed that highlights the fact that aboriginal men are murdered more often than aboriginal women, and proposes that an inquiry include an investigation of violence against both genders. 

'Men and boys have typically been not only marginalized but demonised in this equation. When we think of 'the man' and 'the boy' we tend to think in terms of the perpetrator. Of course, it's the case that the overwhelming majority of perpetrators of severe violence against aboriginal and other women are male - but that has often occluded our understanding of the way that males can be even more vulnerable to violence from other males than women are.'
- Adam Jones

Jones said that in order to address the violence and racism that faces both indigenous men and women, an inclusive "First Nations anti-violence initiative" is needed. 

Listen to Rosanna Deerchild's conversation with UBC professor Adam Jones by clicking the 'listen' button above.