Believe it or not: there is a major Human Rights violation occurring in Canada right now. Since 1980, at least 1,182 Aboriginal women are missing or have been murdered.  The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, however, admits that, despite these statistics, this number is likely substantially higher. How does something like this happen?

Twelve hundred mothers, sisters, and daughters have disappeared or are dead.   Breaking down the issue, the statistics surrounding this are staggering. Aboriginal women report violence 3.5 times higher than other Canadian women, and are 5 times more likely to die of this violence. Furthermore, the level of violence reported by Canadian First Nations women is more severe than that reported of other Canadian women.  The province of Alberta has the lowest “clearance” rates in the country – which means that the majority of the cases are not resolved. Why is this happening?

An inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada, (MMIWC) is taking place to investigate the underlying mechanisms that make Aboriginal women more susceptible to violence, and the corresponding response of government and other institutions. The inquiry is set to be completed in 2018 – after 2 years of data collected. However, the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Report card on the inquiry so far has it falling short of some expectations.


Why Should You Care?

  • This issue has lasting impact. The majority of the missing and murdered are mothers. In 2010, an estimated more than 440 children were impacted by the loss of their mother. What becomes of these children in this intergenerational issue?
  • While the violence inflicted on aboriginal women is often done by their partner, Aboriginal women are 3 times more likely to be victims of violence from a stranger. This means that the crime has a lot to do with the vulnerability of the victim – and is far from simply an inter-familial or inter-cultural issue. This means that there are perpetrators among us who are actively seeking the most vulnerable members of our population.
  • Although MMIWC are receiving attention lately, this has not always been the case. There is a societal bias that this human rights violation has much to do with the risky lifestyle “chosen” by the victim. Victim blaming has no place in our society – a crime committed is the fault of the criminal, not the victim. As human beings, we are much more than what field we choose to earn money in. We all have multiple roles – and these women are daughters, mothers, friends, and “stolen sisters”.
  • If your set of personal ethics doesn’t lead you to be concerned, the very fact that there is a large inquiry being undertaken into this matter, that MMIWC is a well-known acronym, and the fact that Amnesty International has found this to be a significant human rights violation should stir you into concern.

What Can I Do?

Educate Yourself:

  • Gain knowledge in Canada’s historical treatment of Indigenous peoples and how these historical events, in particular, the Residential Schools, are impacting Indigenous peoples today.
  • Take a look around at the women in your life. Try to imagine what it must be like to physically search for them, maybe never hearing from them again after they disappear one night, or finding their remains after weeks or months of searching. Thousands of families and communities are directly affected by missing or murdered women. Make it real to yourself. Meet people who are searching. Hear their stories and recognize their humanity as well. Then lend a hand.

Create Awareness:

  • Help out with The Red Dress Project, where red dresses are displayed annually to symbolize each of the 1, 182 missing or murdered.
  • Partake in the Annual Women’s Memorial March that occurs in and around February 14 in various cities.

Influence Change:

  • Do not allow racist dialogue of any kind to occur around you.
  • Spread the word: do not be afraid to tell people that this issue matters to you, in-person and on social media.
  • Expressions of Reconcilliation – become involved in the truth and reconciliation process with suggestions found here.
  • Support feminism – which seeks to find equality for both genders and all races.
  • Reach out to groups doing work around these stolen sisters and at-risk Indigenous women, and lend your time, money and support to keep them safe.


Erin Newman, M.Ed. is a mental health therapist specializing in the treatment of youth in both private practice and in the public sector. She is also passionate about feminist issues, Indigenous rights, and advocacy for children and youth. Academically, Erin was the recipient of the Indspire Scholarship and the Metis Bursary Award for social services. She hopes to pursue further graduate studies exploring how movement, dance and therapy can assist in healing trauma. Erin uses gardening, nature, and animal therapy for her own personal growth, is a dancer with the integrated and political performing group, CRIPSIE, and spends the rest of her spare time chasing after a toddler.

July 1, 2017 will be the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of confederation – the union of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia as provinces in the Dominion of Canada. The formation of Canada as it now exists took place over time, but we typically identify the day of confederation, July 1, 1867, as Canada’s “birthday”. As Canada’s 150th birthday, 2017 will no doubt be filled with celebrations of Canadian history and gestures to a unified vision of Canadian identity.


It wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me to find that I don’t particularly approve of patriotism. Patriotism relies on uncritical historical narratives, assumes a homogenous national identity[1], and fuels imperialistic/colonial nationalism. But I still have a nostalgic fondness for Heritage Minutes and get that weirdly smug kick out hearing a joke about Canada on an American sitcom, somehow confirming that someone on the writing team must be Canadian and Canadians are funnier than Americans.[2] While I tend to be cynical about state and/or corporate-sponsored celebration of Canadian identity and history, and (probably like many Canadians) I root my personal identity more in my immediate communities/regions of origin and adopted residence than in my national citizenship, I do have enough attachment to the idea of Canada to understand some of the pleasure and meaning many people take from their “Canadian-ness”. At the same time, it’s important to remember (and acknowledge, and act upon) the fact that the political, social, and cultural systems that make up Canada, and give the varied communities and individuals within Canada this sense of loose national connection, have also operated to oppress and fracture communities and cultures that exist on the land outlined by Canadian borders, and often to divide them from their histories prior to the existence of those borders.

I want to propose that it is possible to observe, even celebrate, Canada’s 150th in a non-patriotic manner; in other words, in a way that may take personal meaning and sense of connectedness from aspects of “Canadian-ness” but also works to resist the oppressive imposition of a single “Canadian-ness” on others. A way to do that is to engage in discussion and learning about Canadian histories and identities (plural!) without trying to create something unified. Part of that learning means learning the dark parts of those histories – not just the nationalistic narratives that affirm a Canadian identity of tolerance, liberalism, and harmonious diversity. The complex, conflicting, and downright bad parts of our histories have as much to do with what Canada is now as a society, nation, and culture, as the more uplifting episodes do. If you are invested in Canada, whether through personal identification as a Canadian, or simply because you are a citizen or resident of Canada as a social-political entity, then you should want to learn and grapple with the problematic aspects of Canada in order to understand how to move it forward in a positive way.

Since we are still at the beginning of January and I am a believer in New Year’s resolutions (harness the power of an arbitrary delineation of time and that brand new day planner for good!!), I have a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution that can help Canadians (especially settler Canadians) mark Canada’s 150th year in a meaningful way, which is to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on the history and legacy of residential schools over the course of the year. The final report is long and multipart, so it might help to find or form a reading discussion group with a schedule, or even to just select a year’s worth of reading for yourself. The history component begins with the origins of European colonialism and goes up to 2000, so those volumes alone can provide a long view of Canadian history from a perspective that many of us only got a partial introduction to in school. All the volumes are available to download as pdf. I’ll be reading it and be participating in a dis

[1] Even when that national identity includes the keywords “multicultural” and “diverse”.

[2] I have no idea if this is a relatable Canadian experience, or just me.

lizElisabeth came to Edmonton to do a Masters degree in History at the University of Alberta after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include medieval and early modern social and cultural history, especially issues around medical history and persecution. In the first year of her Masters degree, Elisabeth received the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, followed by the Walter H. Johns Fellowship, Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship, and the Field Law Leilani Muir Graduate Research Scholarship.She  presented at the HCGSA Conference at University of Alberta in 2016 and will be writing the entry on Leprosy in World Christianity for the De Gruyter’s Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (forthcoming). She has worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Alberta, and as a contract researcher and writer for the Government of Alberta’s Heritage division. In addition to her work as a writer and researcher, Elisabeth works with the Art Gallery of Alberta.

We are pleased to announce that The Drawing Board blog has officially surpassed 10,000 readers for the year 2016. As it is only August, we anticipate further growth right until the end of the year as we build our international writing audience.

Thank you for being part of our writing, social justice, feminist and activist communities. Without readers like you, these would just be unread words in cyber space. Instead, your feedback and support have nourished our skills and the home where they are honed.

We hope to find you reading and sharing your thoughts more and more as the year goes on.

In solidarity,

Nakita Valerio

Owner, Editor in Chief

The Drawing Board

lizThis article was writen by Liz Hill, historian and writer/researcher for The Drawing Board.

There is a typical Canadian tendency to assume that our art (like our TV programming) is either a poor imitation of American products or too regional to be interesting. To which I would argue that regionalism and being just off-centre in the art world is what makes Canadian art interesting! Twentieth Century Canadian artists navigated the complexity and diversity of Canadian identity(s) both internally and in relation to the wider art world. The list I’ve selected below aims to be diverse and represent a variety of groups and movements, but cannot begin to be truly representative so I encourage you to check out your local galleries!

Leeward of the Island 1947

Paul Emile Borduas (1905 – 1960)

Paul Emile Borduas was the leader of the Montreal Les Automatistes and the writer of the main essay of their manifesto Refus Global. Borduas was inspired by the automatic writing technique of Andre Breton and the Surrealists. He applied the spontaneous and automatic writing to painting. After exhibiting these automatic works in 1942 he gained a following including Marcel Barbeau, Jean Paul Riopelle, Roger Fauteaux, Pierre Gauvreau, Fernand Leduc, and Jean-Paul Mousseau. The group met in Borduas’ studio to discuss Marxism, surrealism, and psychoanalysis. As artists the group successfully exhibited in New York and Paris in 1946 and 47. In 1948 they produced a manifesto entitled Refus Global. Borduas wrote the main essay which argued that “rational exploitation [was] slowly expanding to all social activities” to the detriment of creativity, expression, and freedom. The Automatistes were opposed to the conservatism of 1940s Quebec society and Borduas rejected Catholicism and nationalism in favour of a “resplendent anarchy” which he saw as a political extension of the Automatistes’ spontaneous and intuitive aesthetic. The group disbanded shortly after the release of Refus Global, with some of the artists already leaving Quebec for Paris, including Jean-Paul Riopelle who would go on to have a successful international career. Refuse Global was widely condemned by the Quebec government and media. As the eldest and the leader of the group Borduas was removed from his position at Ecole du Meuble. He never taught in Quebec again but continued to work in New York and Paris until his death in 1960.

Stripes to the Right 1965

Jack Bush (1909 – 1977)

Jack Bush was a Toronto based artist who, as a member of the Painters Eleven group, contributed to bringing international modern art to Canada, and Canadian art to an international audience. His work, which would become associated with the Colour Field and Lyrical Abstraction styles of Abstract Expressionism, is characterized by an expressive use of colour and the creation of structure through colour. Bush worked as a commercial artist through out his career and was initially a landscape painter in the style of the Group of Seven and the Canadian Group of Painters but he became dissatisfied with Canadian art’s detachment from the international art world. He was exposed to American abstraction, as well as the work of the Automatistes, through trips to New York and Montreal. In 1957 he met the influential New York art critic Clement Greenberg who encouraged him to refine his approach to abstraction and became a life long mentor.

Bush was a member of Painters Eleven, a group of artists formed in 1953 who were similarly frustrated by the 1950s Toronto art scene that continued to be dominated by the influence of the Group of Seven. Alexandra Luke organized the first exhibit of abstract art in 1952 and the group exhibited annually from 1954 – 58. In 1956 they reached an international audience in an exhibit with the American Abstract Artists in New York. The group was diverse in background, training, and style but were united by the influence of the New York school of abstraction and a desire to bring the international art world to Canada and vice versa. Other members of the group were Oscar Cahen, Hortense Gordon, Thomas Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, JWG Macdonald, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura, William Ronald, Harold Town, and Walter Yarwood.

Untitled 1967


William Kurelek (1927 – 1977)

Unlike many of the other artists on this list, William Kurelek was not a member of any artists’ groups or movements. His output and influences are intriguingly idiosyncratic, including Brueghel and Bosch, his prairie roots, Roman Catholicism, and fear of nuclear war. Perhaps best known for illustrating children’s books in the seventies, his other work includes realistic images of prairie life, particularly of Ukrainian immigrant communities, still-lifes, didactic series and apocalyptic images based on his devoutly Catholic beliefs, and earlier works depicting his struggles with mental illness. Born in Alberta and raised in Manitoba, Kurelek began painting in 1950 while living in Edmonton. In 1952 he ended up in England and was committed to a psychiatric hospital for depression. He continued to paint as a form of therapy, producing some of his darkest and most surreal works. During his art therapy he worked with Dr Bruno Cormier who happened to have contributed to Refus Global as a colleague of the Automatistes. He found comfort in Roman Catholicism and began to convert before leaving the hospital in 1955 and returning to Canada in 1956. Through the 1960s he established himself as an artist, producing a body of work that reflected his Catholic conversion, Ukrainian prairie roots, and growing preoccupation with nuclear war and the moral state of modern society. In the seventies he produced a number of books and series depicting Canadian immigrant communities.

Theatre Queue 1962


Daphne Odjig (1919)

Daphne Odjig’s Winnipeg gallery, The New Warehouse Gallery, provided an early meeting place for the Professional Native Indian Artist’s Incorporation (PNAI), or “The Indian Group of Seven.” Odjig learned to draw and carve from her grandfather as a child, and as a young adult taught herself to paint by visiting the Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Toronto. In response to discrimination she adopted an Anglicized version of her name, but in the mid-sixties she returned to her Indigenous roots, both personally and creatively. She began to explore Indigenous history and traditions in her painting and in 1971 she opened the Odjig Indian Prints of Canada gallery, which would be renamed The New Warehouse Gallery, in order to promote and distribute her work and the work of other Aboriginal artists. In the seventies she also began to create large scale historical and legendary murals and paintings that dealt with themes of cultural survival and regeneration, and were based on personal and collective memory.

Odjig’s gallery became a meeting place for artists who would go on to form PNAI in 1974. In addition to Odjig, PNAI members included Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Alex Janvier, Norval Morriseau, Carl Ray, and Joseph Sanchez. The group was diverse in background and artistic styles, but was united by a frustration with the prejudice and lack of opportunity faced by Indigenous and Aboriginal artists in the mainstream Canadian art world. In addition to seeking to improve opportunities for Aboriginal artists, the group was concerned with the survival of Indigenous culture, and critiqued assumptions about Aboriginal art which portrayed it as something from the past or as crafts and artifacts belonging in natural history museums rather than art galleries.

Spring Blues 1960


Joyce Wieland (1931 – 1998)

Joyce Wieland’s use of imagery and materials influenced by Pop Art and feminist art challenged the dominance of painting and high art traditions exemplified by other artists on this list, including Borduas and Bush. In addition to painting, Wieland was a filmmaker and multimedia artist. She expressed her perspective as a woman artist in a male dominated art wold through the use of domestic and craft materials such as embroidery, knitting, quilting, and even an elaborately decorated cake for one exhibit. Her use of lithography, collage, and cartoons reflects the influence of Pop Art and represented a challenge to high art modernism. After her first exhibit in Toronto in 1960, Wieland lived and worked in New York from 1962 to 1970, with her husband Michael Snow, another major Canadian pop artist. Despite nearly a decade spent working in the American art world, and exhibitions in the United States and Europe, Wieland remained invested in her Canadian identity and themes of Canadian nationalism. She viewed the landscape and ecology of Canada as female, tying together issues of nationalism, environment, and gender. In 1971 Wieland was the subject of the National Gallery’s first major exhibit of a living woman artist. It was entitled “True Patriot Love.”


Very recently, The Eleventh Stack posted an interesting blog about Little Golden Memories – the acts of reading and being read to, particularly in childhood, that left a lasting impression on you. I have to say that as a book nerd, some of my favorite memories of my childhood (if not almost all of them) involve reading or writing in some capacity. I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t reading something. From the ingredients on the box of breakfast cereal to the instructions on the shampoo bottle, I’d find time to read every line of text in my house again and again. Often, my mother would find me in the wee hours of the morning, head buried in a book under the covers, flashlight in my mouth.

This kid lacks the coke bottle glasses I needed to wear after I ruined my eyesight.
This kid lacks the coke bottle glasses I needed to wear after I ruined my eyesight.

Oddly, my love of reading came from my fear of dying. I had two grandparents pass away when I was very young, just around the time I was getting into reading and I have very vivid memories of reading voraciously to “fight the clock.” When my mother would come in my room to take away the flashlight so I could get some sleep, I’d wait until she headed back to her room or the living room before yanking open my curtain to squint out a few chapters by the moonlight. Reading, for me, was almost pathological.

50 below
This is how we roll in Canada…

The first book I ever “read” (see: memorized) was Fifty Below Zero by Robert Munsch when I was around five years old. (Actually, I have no idea when it was. It could have been earlier. I started reading very very early). I remember begging my brother to read it to me until I could mouth the words along with him, savouring the sounds coming out of my mouth, knowing that I was doing the next best thing to reading – that my words were lining up with my eyes scanning all those foreign alphabet letters on the page, that every line I got in before the page turn was a victory for my mimicry. One afternoon, my brother and I were in the basement of my grandmother’s house. My mom and her parents were in the second kitchen discussing grown-up things when my brother called them over.

“Nakita wants to read something,” he said.

They had the look of surprise but listened attentively while I cleared my throat, holding up the Munsch classic and proceeded to “read” the entire book cover to cover.When I was done, they clapped and clapped. This was the first positive experience I had with reading and it is one of the only memories of my grandfather that still remains in my mind. In a way, when I return to it, I am reading him again and again, a memorized version of someone once written in life.

I will never forget the sweet taste of victory.
I will never forget the sweet taste of victory.

As I got older, my appetite for reading only increased to disturbing levels. I remember in the fourth grade, my teacher created this classroom challenge called “Around the World” which was designed to encourage us to read. We all cut out and coloured our own Pink Panthers, and labelled him with our names. My teacher had set up little points all around the room and for every book you read, your panther would move a space. If you made it around the room, your panther had gone around the world! Well, this is exciting stuff for a child-freak like me who savours both reading and competition. Naturally, I checked out dozens and dozens of books from the public library and in the month, had lapped the other students in class several times totalling over 80 books. I clearly had an issue.

In the fifth grade, I got accepted into the Advanced Placement class at my new elementary school and we learned about mythology as part of our curriculum. I will never forget our project for the mythology unit which entailed researching the storytelling structures of myths and writing our very own. Mine was called Why We Call the Moon Lunar (wow hahaha) and I even had the cover laminated. I cherished that thing for years.


Too LEGIT to quit
Too LEGIT to quit

Another story my mother just loves to tell everyone, much to my embarrassment (but obviously not too much because it is hilarious and I am now blogging about it), is what I have dubbed The Aardvark Tale. In the summer between Grade Six and the beginning of Grade Seven, I was terrified that I lacked the knowledge to participate in the great academic halls of JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL. During the first week of summer holidays, the sun was shining, birds were chirping and my mother entered my bedroom to find me holed up at my desk, surrounded by papers and books, writing furiously. She peeked over my shoulder at the essay I was working on and discovered that I was crafting a history of… the aardvark. Turns out, I had started the very beginning of my knowledge journey at the first entry in the encyclopedia which my mother tore out my hands and locked away, pushing me to go play outside with children my age. She also (mercifully) enrolled me in a performing and visual arts school for junior high to diversify my interests and skills… basically so that I’d be something more than a massive nerd.

Instead, I became a painter and a band geek. Much cooler, I know. And even though I had a number of years of pure creative output, it was my experience in my history, english and philosophy classes that really stuck and I enrolled in University in the history program. It was basically my dream: reading and writing all day. Every day. Just because.

886cfe31a187018ceebe1a23bdbdbfc8e3a2f8661b1c7d8b46b141323e3828c8I’m a now pursuing graduate studies in history and the volume that I read and write has only increased. I remember in my first semester back at school after a five year break (in which I read at least 200 texts, if not more – I lost track –  I have a legitimate disorder), one of my classmates commented on my speed reading in front of the class. I felt like that Aardvark expert all over again –  a complete and utter, undeniable nerd, in other words. That first semester saw the following stats: the reading/skimming of 78 books, the watching of 16 films, the reading of at least 47 articles, the giving of 4 presentations, and the writing of 165 pages in 3.5 months… I want to say that is all I did in that time, but (as you know), I am also the owner and head writer for The Drawing Board and so was reading, researching and writing for many clients in that time as well.


In the words of a dear friend of mine: I need to be “quaratined.”

Now that I have a kid of my own, I can’t help but wonder if she will be like me in this respect. I would love the opportunity to share my love of the written world with her, but don’t want to pressure her if is not as “into it” as her mom. That being said, if I catch her writing essays on Antelopes or something, I’d love to help her hone her craft and nerd it up just like me… with a lot more outside playing thrown in the mix too.

What are your favourite reading and writing memories?