One of the reasons why Native women account for a disproportionately large share of missing people in Western Canada, is that as compared to what it happened to be the case with Whites and the representatives of other ethno-cultural minorities, they appear to be particularly vulnerable to different forms of a societal abuse.
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Partially, this can be explained by the fact that, while remaining essentially euro-centric, Canadian society continues to deny these women their basic humanity – even though that it now is being done in a rather subtle manner. Therefore, there can be few doubts, as to the potential ability of the 2006 documentary Finding Dawn to enlighten viewers on the sheer acuteness of the earlier mentioned problem.
This is because; the documentary’s director Christine Welsh did succeed in humanizing the issue of violence against Native women, by the mean of encouraging viewers to emotionally relate to the stories of these women’s disappearances.
The validity of this statement can be well substantiated in regards to a number of documentary’s scenes. For example, there is a memorable scene, in which Laura Cray talks about her memories of its sister Dawn – a Native woman, confirmed to have been murdered by Robert Pickton (00.09.31 – 00.10.44).
According to Laura, while in Vancouver, Dawn was denied the opportunity of a social advancement, which caused her to succumb to depression and consequently, to become a drug-addict – an easy prey for maliciously minded men.
This, of course, suggests that Canadian society is partially responsible for what happened to Dawn. Moreover, Laura’s memories of Dawn also imply that the practice of socially established Canadians (who happened to be overwhelmingly White) referring to drug-addicted Native women, as such that consciously decided to lead morally repulsive lifestyles, is utterly inappropriate.
After all, it is mainly due to these people’s perceptual arrogance that Native women in Canada continue being mistreated, as we speak.
There is another scene in Finding Dawn, where Dawn’s brother Ernie Cray elaborates upon what caused his sister to remain on the ‘missing list’ for many years, while the Vancouver law enforcement authorities were refusing to apply a considerable effort into investigating her disappearance (00.11.59 – 00.13.33).
According to Ernie, there is nothing too surprising about it – since Dawn was a Native woman, police officers did not think of investigating her case in terms of a priority. Had Dawn been White, this would have been a completely different matter.
Thus, it will only be appropriate to refer to the earlier mentioned scene, as such that uncovers the deep-seated reasons for Native women in Canada to continue being victimized with ease. Apparently, while prescribed with the marginalized status within the society, Native women experience a particularly hard time, while trying to take a practical advantage of their constitutionally guaranteed social rights.
In its turn, this can be explained by the fact that, despite having adopted the rhetoric of a political correctness, Canadian governmental officials cannot help experiencing a number of deep-seated prejudices towards these women, while denying them the right of an equal treatment with the rest of Canadian citizens (Turner and Van Winkle 562).
This is exactly the reason why, as time goes on, more and more progressively minded people in Canada realize that, in order for them to be able to reduce the likelihood of Native female abuse-victims to endure their socially imposed ‘anonymity’, citizens must be ready to expose their willingness to apply an active effort, while trying to address the situation.
The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated in regards to another memorable scene in Finding Dawn, which exposes viewers to the sight of Vancouverites taking part in the Annual Women’s Memorial March (00.18.45 – 00.19.48).
What this scene does, is prompting viewers to think that, despite Native women’s underpowered social status, which naturally predisposes them to be victimized in an essentially ‘anonymous’ manner, they are not alone in their struggle to secure their human dignity.
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As it can be seen in this scene, the march’s participants did not only consist of Natives, but also of many Whites. This, of course, suggests that, as of today, there are objective preconditions for the country’s governmental officials to pay a closer attention to the issue of Native women continuing to suffer from remaining the most unprotected subjects of victimization (Culhane 595).
Essentially the same can be said about the discursive significance of one of the documentary’s concluding scenes, which features at least thirty residents of Vanderhoof (BC) standing along the Highway 16th and holding ‘Stop the Violence’ posters in their hands (00.66.50 – 00.67.43).
This scene symbolizes that there is in fact very little ‘anonymousness’ to the plight of Native women in Canada. After all, according to the discursive motif, promoted throughout the scene, the residents of Native communities grow increasingly committed towards ensuring the safety of their family-members by the mean of promoting the message of tolerance.
As the President of Native Women Association of Canada (NWAC) Bev Jacobs pointed out: “I think it is important to just show support to the families (of disappeared/murdered Native women) and to let them know that they are not alone” (00.67.26).
After all, it is not only that the event’s participants appear to have been thoroughly aware of the Native female-victims’ names, but they also seem to understand perfectly well that it is only by adopting a socially active stance, on the issue of violence against Native women, that Canadians will be able to change the situation for better.
The documentary’s final scene, which features the images of Native Canadians expressing their support to the cause of protecting Native women against violence (00.70.25 – 00.71.02) is especially powerful, in the emotional sense of this word.
This is because this scene implies that there is indeed a good reason to believe that, as time goes on, Native women will be growing increasingly less likely to fall victims to a sexual/physical abuse. Apparently, the very course of history creates prerequisites for their existential ‘anonymity’ to be progressively undermined.
Thus, just as it was noted at the presentation’s beginning, Finding Dawn may indeed be referred to as such that contributed rather substantially to the cause of protecting Native women’s physical and emotional well-being.
The reason for this is apparent – this documentary does in fact endows viewers with the thought that Canadian society has evolved to the point when it can no longer remain arrogant, as to what causes its most vulnerable members to be deprived of a chance to attain happiness, while leading the lifestyle of socially integrated citizens.
Culhane, Dara. “Their Spirits Live within Us: Aboriginal Women in Downtown Eastside Vancouver Emerging into Visibility.” American Indian Quarterly 27.3/4 (2003): 593-606. Print.
“Finding Dawn.” Christine Welsh. National Film Board of Canada. 2006. Web.
Turner, Pauline and Barrik Van Winkle. “’Indian Blood’: Reflections on the Reckoning and Refiguring of Native North American Identity.” Cultural Anthropology 11.4 (1996): 547-576. Print.