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Social Justice for Indigenous Women in Canada Term Paper

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Updated: Jul 9th, 2021

The notion of social justice has become a buzzword recently, having been used so frequently in media that its mere mentioning tends to spark a wide range of emotions, from light confusion to strong irritation. However, the problem of social justice – or, to be more accurate, the lack thereof – becomes especially poignant when considering criminal issues and their management, as well as the factors that contribute to reducing the rates of crime and violence against vulnerable groups. “Finding Dawn,” a 2016 documentary, sheds light on the issue of missing indigenous women in Canada and the factors that define the slow pace of the investigation process.

The present-day situation that indigenous Canadian women face can be described as dire. Due to a combination of social prejudices and economic factors, a range of women belonging to the identified group face the threat of poverty and become a victim of a crime (NFB, 2016). In order to address the specified injustice, one will have to introduce changes to the social justice and, thus, alter the legal one by considering a variety of factors from social to economic to financial ones.

Safety for All or Restrictions for Everyone

In principle, the idea of promoting social justice on every level and in every facet of people’s lives sounds rather alluring. Due to the presence of persistent social stereotypes and prejudices, as significant number of population groups are prone to rather unfair treatment, ranging from negligence to bullying to social ostracism (Nelson, 2000). Therefore, introducing the tools that will allow avoiding or addressing the described concerns is essential.

However, the proposed solution makes one posit whether the active provision of support to vulnerable groups in the form of inhibiting specific types of interactions and communication patterns may become detrimental to others. The observed problem can also be located in the management of the difficulties encountered by other vulnerable groups. In fact, the described issues intersect in the area that is related to the public image of the specified populations and the ostensible differences that lie between them and the rest of the community (Johnston, 2016). Although aa’s claim is supposed to reflect upon the hardships faced by the representatives of the transgender community, it also applies to indigenous women and other groups that experience the weight of social prejudices.

The Other Side of Social Justice

However, the described approach toward interpreting the notion of social justice begs the question whether the very existence of the specified notion is viable. Specifically, the stance that the society currently adopts toward the dilemmas associated with the satisfaction of diverse groups’ needs leaves much to be desired, according to Davis (2014). Specifically, Davis (2014) makes the following statement: “The sex-classification schemes they employ are not just rationally, but also “substantially” related to legitimate and “important” governmental goal” (p. 46). While pointing to a different roster of social problems, the author renders the futility of appealing to the societal interpretation of problematic issues and the appeal to social values.

Therefore, the idea of reinforcing the social support for a particular group of people has to be aligned with securing the rights of other people whose rights may be infringed in the process. Similarly, the enhancement o the principles of social justice has to be geared toward all members of a certain social stratum. As “Finding Dawn” exemplifies, even with the further enhancement of the feminist movement and a more active fight for women’s rights, indigenous women in Canada continue to suffer and experience grave injustice. When locating the major flaw in the current concept of social justice and the reasons for the seemingly sensible plight for women’s rights to fail, one should mention the failure to disentangle the intricate socioeconomic and sociocultural factors that affect different groups of women.

The presence of racialization in the contemporary culture is another factor that contributes vastly to the mismanagement of the needs of vulnerable groups and exposing then to the factors that aggravate their situation. Specifically, because of the enhancement of racialization and the promotion of the associated line of thinking, most of the problems that the target group encounters in the modern society fall into obscurity. Furthermore, the enhancement of racialization leads to dehumanizing target groups, thus making them the object of social contempt and demotivating the rest of the community to extend the effort of assisting them. According to Carr and Haynes (2015), the problem of racialization is explicitly visible when considering the attitudes toward Muslim people in the Western society: “Across Western nations, public and institutional discourses and practices are infused with strikingly similar motifs of threat to nation and civilization” (p., 22).

While in the example above, the process of racialization and the following dehumanization of a large group of people are fueled by fear, the problem of criminally low enthusiasm in addressing the disappearance of numerous indigenous Canadian women is driven by indifference (NFB, 2016). Socioeconomic and sociocultural factors make the specified group of people invisible to the rest of the Canadian community, reducing any chances for violence toward the specified population to ever be addressed.

Solution

With the idea of focusing on culture-specific needs in mind, one may suggest that the solution to the problem of negligence toward the plight of indigenous omen, as well as any other vulnerable group, lies in channeling efforts in the right direction and using the available media outlets. Creating branches within the general feminist movement to pay particular attention to the needs of indigenous women in Canada and addressing local sociocultural and socioeconomic factors is only the first step toward improving the situation. In addition, it is critical to introduce cohesion and unity to the movement and consider the premises based on which the contemporary concept of social justice in regard to the needs of indigenous Canadian women lies.

However, it would be an understatement to claim that resolving the criminally low concern for the well-being of indigenous Canadian women and other vulnerable groups, in general, is a multifaceted issue. The solution for the problem described in “Finding Dawn” implies the necessity to shape the social justice standards by influencing the representation of indigenous Canadian women in modern media, affecting their economic well-being, an d providing them with social and political agency (NFB, 2016). The combination of the specified measures along with the rise in awareness within the target community will make the problem evident to the rest of the Canadian residents. Therefore, shaping the notion of social justice by encouraging a change in the current perception of indigenous women, which includes their portrayal in media an a profound understanding of the sociocultural and socioeconomic issues that they face.

Addressing the problem of victimization of target groups is another step toward creating a safer environment for the people whose rights are often violated. The specified issue is often linked to the problem of drug addiction and the associated legal repercussions (NFB, 2016). By telling the stories of poverty and drug addiction among indigenous Canadian women that were provided with no support, “Finding Dawn” enders one of the greatest rifts between the contemporary criminal justice and social justice. Particularly, the perspective from which people with substance dependency are viewed through the prism of the law and the societal perspective are strikingly different. Herein lies the core problem that has to be managed on both social and legal levels. By shaping people’s opinion of addicts as people with health issues as opposed to criminals, one will be able to influence the legal system and introduce regulations for rehabilitating the specified demographic rather than punishing them (NFB, 2016). The resulting increase in the levels of well-being among vulnerable community members will allow handling the described concern.

At the same time, one should keep in mind that assuming a radical stance regarding the changes in the current justice system may affect other groups and their well-being. In the case under analysis, the managing problems faced by indigenous Canadian women by redirecting the efforts of the Canadian police from assisting other women that face violence and abuse will also leave a negative mark on the social dynamics. Put differently, it is critical to manage the problem of violence and abuse aimed toward women, in general, at the same time paying specifically close attention to the groups that are predisposed to the threat thereof economically, culturally, or based on any other set of factors. Davis (2014) states that the problem of gender-related judgments has to be handled on multiple levels, the issues of race or social status being the key contributors to the development of the threat:

Because gender perception is never race or class neutral, the subjective administration of sex-classification policies always raises the specter of intersectional gender judgments that are also irrelevant to legitimate policy goals, no matter their content or moral valence. (p. 46)

Therefore, the problem of handling the concerns raised in “Finding Dawn” is intertwined with the management of the issues associated with class conflicts and economic inequalities. The social stigma that indigenous women and other groups that are marginalized by the rest of the society carry affects the perception f the specified populations and their problems by the rest of the community, diminishing the challenges that the specified groups encounter. Therefore, changing the present-day perception of the target demographic among community members is the first step toward managing the problem of violence and addressing the concern of gender inequality.

The problem of social stigma affects a range of communities, indigenous Canadian women not being the only one. For example, the impact of social [prejudices and the misrepresentation in media has a direct and detrimental impact on the well-being and social acceptance of transgender people (NFB, 2016). The unwillingness to understand the plight of vulnerable groups leads to a drastic drop in the levels of empathy within communities, thus exposing groups in question to an even greater threat.

At the same time, it is critical to encourage activism and the levels of agency among the target population, encouraging people to shape the notion of social justice. The lack of police involvement, in turn, has to be addressed on a statewide level and managed as a legal issue. However, the alterations to the existing justice system and the framework for managing gender issues as they pertain to the needs of indigenous Canadian women have to start on a social level before the principles of social justice are transferred to the realm of the criminal one.

Thus, alterations to the current principles of social justice have to be introduced immediately. With a change in the representation of indigenous Canadian women in modern media, a shift in the social paradigm will be observed, with the process of dehumanizing the specified group being prevented. In turn, the transformation of the social justice principles will eventually lead to alterations in the criminal justice environment, compelling legal authorities to focus on the problem of crime and violence toward indigenous Canadian women. It is believed that, with the promotion of the principles of equity and equality, as well as the enhancement of empathy as the basis for social interactions, one will promote a shift in the social justice principles, in general. Thus, the needs an of other vulnerable groups will also be met, and the threats reducing the quality of their lives being removed from the social environment.

It is expected that the proposed change will cause a shift in the social relationships. Apart from addressing the problem of racism and the negative attitudes toward indigenous Canadian women, the specified stance will provide insightful solutions to other considers. For example, the reverse problem of xenophobia can be managed with the application of the principles of social justice powered by the concepts of equity and equality (NFB, 2016). According to NFB, the modern society is plagued by rampant xenophobia fueled by the strenuous political relationships and misconceptions occurring during a cross-cultural dialogue (NFB, 2016). The integration of the approach toward communication based on the unceasing learning and viewing cross-cultural communication as an educational opportunity, in turn, will allow changing the current situation. In a similar way, gender issues, which are also linked directly to the case under analysis, will be managed more effectively. For instance, the concerns associated with high levels of transphobia in the modern society will be handled more effectively (NFB, 2016). Thus, a gradual shift in people’s perceptions of social justice will occur.

However, so far, social justice has been failing the target population due to the lack of focus on sociocultural, economic, and political factors that affect the situation in which indigenous Canadian women find themselves. The stigma of poverty and the general representation of the indigenous Canadian culture in the modern media ha stake its toll on the current situation, reducing the probability for the specified group to avoid being involved in a criminal case and becoming a victim (Duffy & Mandell, 2005). Therefore, the levels of social security, opportunities for health management, provision of financial options, and other alterations have to be integrated into the contemporary Canadian society to ensure that vulnerable groups receive proper support.

Conclusion

Despite having become a generation-defining notion for the modern world, the concept of social justice as it is perceived nowadays requires further contemplations and changes. It is critical to take the needs of all vulnerable groups into consideration in order to create the setting where all parties could exercise their rights. The specified phenomenon is explained by the presence of social stereotypes that obstruct people’s perception of the problem of violence toward indigenous Canadian women. Linked intrinsically to the dehumanization of the specified population and its condescending portrayal in modern media, the specified philosophy affects the levels of crime and violence aimed against indigenous Canadian women, causing the number of victims among the specified demographic to spiral out of control.

Therefore, the change in the current legal standards for ensuring safety of indigenous Canadian women should start with the alterations in the social perspective and the shift in the perception of the image of indigenous women. The specified change also implies a different interpretation of gender roles within the specified society and a shift in the balance of powers in the specified relationships. It will be crucial to introduce the principles of equity and equality into the process of communication between Canadian citizens and the representatives of the indigenous Canadian culture. The changes in the social balance of powers will ultimately lead to improving the legal standards and making the issues that threaten the lives of indigenous Canadian women a reason for a legitimate concern. Thus, the principles of the social justice will affect the quality of women’s lives, reducing the threats of violence and abuse aimed toward them. The change in perception will become possible as soon as all factors affecting the current perception of indigenous Canadian women are taken into account, including gender-related ones, as well as social, economic, and cultural stereotypes.

References

Carr, J., & Haynes, A. (2015). A clash of racializations: The policing of ‘race’ and of anti-Muslim racism in Ireland. Critical Sociology, 41(1), 21-40. Web.

Duffy, A., & Mandell, N. (2000). The growth in poverty and social inequality: losing faith in social justice. In D. Glenday, & A. Duffy (eds), Inequality in Canada: A reader on the intersections of gender, race, and class (pp. 251-265). Oxford: OUP.

Davis, H. F. (2014). Sex-classification policies as transgender discrimination: An intersectional critique. Perspectives on Politics, 12(1), 45-60. Web.

Johnston, M. S. (2016). ‘Until that magical day… no campus is safe’: Reflections on how transgender students experience gender and stigma on campus. Reflective Practice, 17(2), 143-158. Web.

Nelson, J. J. (2000). The space of Africville: Creating, regulating and remembering the urban ‘slum’. Canadian Journal of Law & Society/La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société, 15(2), 163-185. Canadian Journal of Law and Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société, 15(2), Web.

NFB. (2016). [Video file]. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Social Justice for Indigenous Women in Canada." July 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-justice-for-indigenous-women-in-canada/.

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