State violence against Indigenous women is no less shocking, just because it is not new. It shook me to my core to see the videotape of Ms Dhu’s horrendously brutal treatment and death.
Ms Dhu’s death in police custody is illustrative of the worst and most tragic of many racist consequences of colonization in both of our countries. Ms Dhu should never have died in police custody, but you would be forgiven for observing that her life history predetermined her death. Police arrested Ms Dhu when they were called because she was in need of protection from her violent partner. Police, doctors and nurses ignored Ms Dhu’s pleas for help and Ms Dhu died 20 years after the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in Australia.
We must dismantle the racist foundations of our legal and administrative systems and hold accountable those individuals and institutions who continue to kill Indigenous women. Addressing the marginalization and victimization of Indigenous women and girls will also help prevent their criminalization and incarceration.
The time to act is long overdue. For Ms Dhu and too many others, we are too late. We must act immediately to prevent the deaths of others. The time to act is NOW!!
Kim Pate is a Canadian Senator and women's advocate. She has spent the last 35 years working in and around Canadian legal and penal systems, advocating with and on behalf of prisoners. Before her appointment to the Senate she was the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS); a federation who provide services and work in coalition with marginalised women.