Stolen Sisters: Colonial Roots of Sexual Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Unsympathetic Media Representations toward Their Stories in Contemporary Canada.

by David Sanlal

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The RCMP reports that approximately 1,181 Aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since the 1980s, many of them as victims of sexual violence. Drawing on Albert Memmi’s theory of colonialism and oppression and conditioned hatred, this paper argues that sexual violence against Aboriginal women is legitimizes by colonial attitudes that have created systematic racialized hatred and systemic discrimination. This paper examines the colonial manipulation of public perceptions of Aboriginal women to rationalize their subjugation by constructing the idea of Indigenous women as the “Squaw Drudge” who is dirty, degraded, and slave to men. By applying the concept of abjection, the paper argues that the discursive construction of Aboriginal women as social waste simultaneously organizes the narratives of Canadian media. The Aboriginal women received six times less coverage; their articles were shorter and less likely to appear on the front page. Media constructs the image of Aboriginal women as “bad” or “beyond redemption,” which render the invisibility of the violence perpetrated against them. The media treatment of Aboriginal women victimizes the women again as they perpetuate the colonial views that Aboriginal women are inferior and insignificant.


Missing and murdered Aboriginal women; Sexual Violence; Colonialism; Media representations


I am a Canadian Studies major and Film minor at Carleton University in Ottawa. I was born in Burma, but I grew up in India as a political refugee under the protection of the United Nations. I came to Canada as a landed immigrant in 2005, and I graduated from high school in 2006. After high school, I have worked in 8 different jobs where I acquired various skills and experiences in customer service, sales, data entry, and administrative work. Moreover, I have always been active in volunteer work. I had had volunteered at Immigrant Services Society of BC and Vancouver Chin Baptist Church for several months. Furthermore, since 2013, I have been volunteering as a manager at Ottawa Chin Community Centre. As a manager, I play a key role in implementing new ideas for fund-raising, community workshop, and organizing events.

My main goal in life is to help immigrants and refugees in Canada and abroad. For this reason, I am planning to apply to various departments that deal with immigrants and refugees such as the Canadian embassy or Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Having brought up and educated in 3 different countries and being able to speak 6 different languages, I am certain that my personal skills, experiences, and qualification would prove to be a great asset in any field of work I engage in.