Men's role in solving the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women

Lani Elliott, who survived a vicious attack by her husband that left her with a broken leg, is now telling her story on First Nations and in schools.

Organizers say not enough men showing support

How men can help solve issue of missing and murdered indigenous women 3:23

Lani Elliott was 21 years old when she survived a vicious attack by her husband, who beat her with a baseball bat and broke her leg. 

Elliott is now telling her story to First Nations and in schools, raising awareness of how often domestic abuse plays a role in the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

According to a report released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police last year entitled "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Review", 92 per cent of the women knew their attackers:

  • 29 per cent — Spouse
  • 23 per cent — Other Family Member
  • 10 per cent — Other Intimate
  • 30 per cent — Acquaintance
  • 8 per cent — Stranger
Lani Elliott speaks about domestic violence to students at the Bert Fox Community High School in Fort Qu'Appelle. (CBC)

"It's almost like people want to believe that a lot of the violence that's happening, the perpetrators are strangers, and maybe that's the case for some of them, but we can't ignore the fact that domestic violence, relationship violence is a huge contributing factor to these women going missing," Elliott said.

Good men, healthy men, have got to step up and teach men what a healthy man is again.- Conrad Burns

Despite 89 per cent of the perpetrators being men, Elliott said a lot of men don't want to talk about the issue. She's had speeches cancelled last minute and male leaders sending female representatives instead.

"It's sad to say but there's a lot of push back," Elliott said. "In my mind, it tells me this is an issue they don't want to talk about."

Several organizations have agreed that not enough men are showing up to support women at missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIWevents.

There are exceptions, however. Conrad Burns is helping set up a week-long event in Prince Albert to create awareness about abuse towards women.

"Traditionally, women controlled the community. They were in charge," Burns said. "We've lost that. As a man, my role, traditionally, is to support a woman in any given single way possible ... women give birth to us. Women help us develop ourselves. Women feed us and clothe us, and pass on their knowledge, and take their time to care for us. And somewhere along that way some men think they become punching bags."

Burns admitted it can be tough to get other men involved, because he said some of them would promise to take part in an event, but then they'd never show up.

Conrad Burns is helping set up a week-long event in Prince Albert to raise awareness about abuse towards women. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

"Getting guys involved in Prince Albert, I know there's a lot of amazing guys out there, and they're all busy doing their own things, sometimes it's hard to focus on something else, because everyone's got their own struggles."

Worse than not showing up are those who are opposed to the cause completely, such as a man who responded on Facebook when Burns posted that people need to respect women.

"A man, I don't even know where he's from, stated right away, 'Just because you posted this I'm going to hit a woman today'."

Despite the struggles to get his message across, Burns still believes that more men will join the cause.

"Good men, healthy men, have got to step up and teach men what a healthy man is again," Burns said. "If men don't stand up, they're continuing to cycle. And the cycle of abuse is not good for anyone."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.