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Open Access Publications from the University of California

#AmINext? A discussion on the sexual violence and trafficking of Aboriginal women in Canada and the link to domestic extractive industries

  • Author(s): Taggart, Marissa Jean
  • Advisor(s): Darian-Smith, Eve
  • et al.

Human trafficking is a global issue, one to which Canada is not immune. I argue that there is a poorly recognized relationship between the vulnerability to violence and trafficking of Aboriginal women in Canada and the domestic extractive industries of Canada, alleging that extractive industries are a source of sexual violence against Aboriginal women and a risk factor for sexual violence and human trafficking. I believe that further research and in-depth analysis needs to be conducted concerning the oppression of Aboriginal women and the reasons why they are at heightened risk to sexual violence and trafficking. By investigating the underlying factors and manner by which these three typically separate elements – Aboriginal women in Canada, sexual violence and human trafficking, and extractive industries - intersect and perpetuate one another, I draw attention to an under-acknowledged issue facing a deeply marginalized population.

To frame my discussion, I use a critical global studies perspective as well as the work of Native American scholar Andrea Smith, who argues that sexual violence is a tool of patriarchy, colonialism, and racism by which certain people (i.e. Aboriginal women) become marked as “inherently rapable”. As such, issues of colonial, race, and gender oppression intersect and cannot be studied separately.

I employ a qualitative approach, drawing on current literature discussing colonization, sexual violence, human trafficking, Aboriginal populations in Canada, and extractive industries. My discussion, based on an analysis of the information collected through archival research, is divided into three large sections: (a) an in-depth discussion concerning the overlap between colonialism, violence, and extraction, and how gendered oppression and sexual violence have migrated from colonialism to present day extractive industries; (b) an exploration of how the “ideal victim” archetype, when coupled with racism, stereotypes, and social constructions of vulnerability, undermines the experiences of Aboriginal women who are consequently re-victimized by the legal institutions and society, made invisible, and deemed unworthy of any recourse (c) an investigation into the role of culture, firstly by considering how the destruction of Aboriginal culture was an assault on their identity, self-esteem, self-perception, values, and overall well-being and secondly, by exploring how the patriarchal, hypermasculine culture, found both within the broader Canadian society but also within extractive industries, plays a role in facilitating violence and indifference towards Aboriginal women.

I conclude by recommending mitigation strategies to address the risks faced by Aboriginal women and their communities. A multi-system approach targeting sexual violence, racism, and poverty (among others) is necessary for success - hence my suggestions range from actions on the part of Aboriginal communities to actions at the legal, national, and international levels.

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