Why Are Indigenous Leaders Partnering with MRA Groups?

The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous men is now in the spotlight, but Cree researcher Robert Innes warns against giving a platform to organizations that blame feminism.

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Dec 10 2016, 9:17pm

Chief Ernie Crey on a 'Expand the Inquiry' panel at SFU. Photo by Jeridan Kowal via Facebook

The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous men is now in the spotlight. This comes thanks to efforts by leaders like Cheam First Nation Chief Ernie Crey, who in the past has championed for MMIW and now has his sights set on shining a light on issues facing missing and murdered Indigenous men (MMIM).

He's part of a coalition called "Expand the Inquiry" that includes a partnership with the Canadian Association for Equality. CAFE has been criticized for being misogynistic in their views and was recently banned from an Ottawa theatre.

Crey and others have been called out on Twitter for their partnership with the men's rights organization.

Crey responded by saying that he was not aware of the claims of misogyny against CAFE and that he is just happy for their support.

Crey then pointed out that the founders of the MMIM initiative are in fact, women. Still, critics of CAFE say taking in support from a men's rights activist (MRA) group like CAFE is unacceptable.

Rob Innes (Cree) is an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He helped edit, along with Dr. Kim Anderson, the book Indigenous Men and Masculinities. Innes says while the issue of MMIM is vital and Crey is probably working with the best intentions, gaining support from an allegedly hateful organization like CAFE may not be the best idea.

"The overwhelming majority of people who are a part of CAFE are white men. And certainly it's not 100 percent white men but a majority are."

"It is somewhat problematic considering that CAFE as an MRA group really doesn't take into consideration other more pressing factors... so they don't really think about race."

He says it's vital to speak about the socio-economical conditions and racism that exists and surrounds the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous men.

"As men's rights activists do in general—they point towards men being disadvantaged because of feminists."

Read More: What Does It Mean to Be An Indigenous Man in 2016?

Innes says ideologies like these fall in line with opinion columnists like Adam Jones who told the CBC that MMIM wasn't garnering attention because the MMIW fight had become "politicized" and "a feminist cause célèbre." CBC also published a similar opinion column stating Canada should be paying more attention to their missing and murdered Indigenous men—if they truly consider themselves a "feminist government." Innes thinks blaming feminists for the cracks in the system when addressing missing and murdered Indigenous men is wrong.

"Nobody was talking about missing and murdered Indigenous women until NWAC (Native Women's Association of Canada) and other women's organizations and individuals started to really press the issue. And that was a 15 year journey to get to the point where we are today," he told VICE.

"What this allows us to do now is ask, 'Well what about our missing and murdered Indigenous men?' Because this wouldn't have been an issue or no one would be talking about it now."

Innes says the issues Indigenous men face are staggering. Aboriginal men are seven times more likely to be killed than non-Aboriginal men. Compared to Aboriginal women, Aboriginal men are three times more likely to be killed, despite Aboriginal people only making up five percent of Canada's population. It's statistics like this that Innes thinks we should be focusing on.

"These are real issues that we, within the Indigenous community, have to deal with. Instead of talking about you know, being excluded from the inquiry because of (Indigenous) feminists."

"Allow the light to be shone on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous men instead of saying 'Well, it's because of feminists no one was talking about it.'"

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