Relatives of missing and murdered indigenous women in Alberta are getting more support from government.
On Friday, Alberta's Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan announced $1.5 million in federal funding for a new Family Information Liaison Unit in the province.
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The four-person unit will provide information and support for those involved in the national inquiry looking into the causes of violence against Indigenous women and what can be done to prevent it.
'Many have also experienced great frustration'
"As Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or gone missing, it is their family members who have felt the greatest sense of pain and loss," said Feehan.
"Yet many have also experienced great frustration when they try to track down information about investigations into the loss of their loved ones. Or when they try to find support or counselling from people who understand their culture and recognize the trauma they have experienced."
Don Langford, the executive director of the Metis Child and Family Services Society, is optimistic.
"There is a great need in this community for somebody to step up and listen to our people, to understand what they're feeling and understand their frustration," said Langford.
"You can't go day after day and ask question after question without getting some sort of a logical response from somebody. And at times our people feel that nobody just gives a damn."
'One-stop support service'
The funding request came from the Alberta government following consultations with some of the families.
"This was the kind of request that they had brought forward to us: We need people to help us as family members with the grief and trauma we're experiencing. So this is our response to that," said Feehan, adding it will run concurrently with the national inquiry.
"It is designed to be a culturally relevant, one-stop support service and information source for the families."
The unit will eliminate obstacles for those wanting more information on fatality inquiries, police investigations or criminal prosecutions related to the deaths of loved ones.
"These facts are often spread out among multiple institutions and departments making even a simple request for information a frustrating, even alienating, experience," said Feehan.
The team, with three members based in Edmonton and a fourth in Grande Prairie, can also link families with elders, spiritual support and counselling.
'I'm being optimistic'
Langford says the group is long overdue.
"We have to support these families. These families are broken, they're devastated, they've given up hope," said Langford. "So I'm being optimistic."
The unit is now open and available for those needing help. The team will travel to meet people for face-to-face meetings in their home communities.
The funding will allow the unit to function for three years.