When the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women started three years ago, Edmund Saunders was skeptical. Skeptical about the inquiry itself and skeptical of any change that might come from it. Now, after hearing the final recommendations and report, he's hopeful.
“I didn’t have any faith in it in the beginning,” Saunders tole the Labrador Voice. “I thought it was just another way for the government to shut us up and give us a little bit of what we wanted but when I realized that all these recommendations are coming from the survivors and the families of the missing and murdered women I really think that is a foothold to starting something good.”
“I didn’t have any faith in it in the beginning. I thought it was just another way for the government to shut us up and give us a little bit of what we wanted but when I realized that all these recommendations are coming from the survivors and the families of the missing and murdered women I really think that is a foothold to starting something good.” — Edmund Saunders
The report, delivered on June 5, contained more than 230 recommendations covering a number of topics, from policing to a guaranteed annual income.
Saunders spoke at the inquiry about his sister Loretta Saunders. She was murdered in 2014 in Halifax.
Ironically, at the time of her murder she was working on her university thesis on the subject of missing and murdered indigenous women.
Her brother said he was deeply moved by the elders who spoke at the unveiling of the report and agrees with them that sweeping changes need to be made.
“That’s what people need to realize,” he said. “Big changes need to be made, it isn’t just small things. There’s a lot that needs to change, with the police, with the government, with us, a lot needs to be changed.”
He said he’s hopeful government will take these recommendations seriously.
“I really think it is a step in the right direction of finding out and dealing with the underlying issues that cause our people to be violent towards one another,” he said. “When our women go missing or be murdered, a lot of times it’s their own spouses and families.”
When Saunders gave his testimony at the inquiry he spoke about the violence that was a part of his life for a long time and how he feels indigenous men need to change the way they treat their women.
One of the findings of the inquiry was the high rate of intimate partner violence relating to missing and murdered indigenous women.
Saunders said violence against women is too normalized in this country, especially in rural regions, and indigenous populations are no exception.
“You can’t demand change from other people if you can’t change on your own. A lot of them put themselves in the positions that are dangerous for them because of people like I used to be,” he said.
Saunders makes no bones about the fact that he used to be a violent man to everyone around him. He said it took him a long time to become the man he is today. He said he controlled people around him with violence, including his partners, and if he could change then a lot of people could learn to be better.
“I lost a lot of years with my kids because of my abusive ways and I can stand here today and say I own my actions. I am ashamed, deeply ashamed of who I was, but I am proud of who I have become today. It took a lot of hard work to get where I am today.”