Manitoba

'The dialogue has started' on Canada's MMIW, says Selinger

A commitment was reached after a roundtable discussion in Ottawa Friday that many hope will lead to a national inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing indigenous women.

Next roundtable discussion to take place in Manitoba next year

'The dialogue has started' on Canada's MMIW, says Selinger

7 years ago
2:14
A commitment was reached after a roundtable discussion in Ottawa Friday that many hope will lead to a national inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing indigenous women. 2:14

A commitment was reached after a roundtable discussion in Ottawa Friday that many hope will lead to a national inquiry into Canada’s murdered and missing indigenous women.

“You can’t accomplish everything in one day … but the dialogue has started,” said Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, who attended the meeting. “We think it’s a good foundation for the future.”

​​A second roundtable will be held in Manitoba in 2016, which will bring police and justice officials together from across the country to reconsider systemic issues facing Canada’s at-risk indigenous women.
Roxanne Thiara's body was found in 1994 and Fonassa Bruyere's was found in 2007. The teenage girls are related and both of their cases remain unsolved.

“I think the roundtable was historic because it brought voices and participation of families together with national aboriginal organizations, the provinces and territories and federal government,” said Selinger.

Winnipeg activist Cheryl James said the first thing that needs to be done is to re-instate funding that has been cut to advocacy groups. The second move, according to James, is to start a national inquiry that would seek to understand an resolve the root causes of the issue.

"Two things that need to be done: immediate action and all of the families voices need to be heard," said James.

'Hurt is still there,' says family member

Carla Bruyere wished she could've been in Ottawa Friday. Two of her relatives are on Canada's list of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

"It's hurtful even just talking about it, the hurt is still there," Bruyere said.

The hurt first goes back to 1994. That's when her niece, Roxanne Thiara, was found dead along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. She was 15 years old and her case remains unsolved.

"Roxanne had been missing for over a month before we were even notified that she was missing," said Bruyere. "I wasn't notified until they actually found her [body]."

Her second loss happened in 2007. The body of her cousin, Fonassa Bruyere, was found in a field northwest of Winnipeg. Her case is unsolved and is being investigated by the RCMP's and the Winnipeg Police Service's Project Devote.

Bruyere says she would have liked to have shared her story at the Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Ottawa.

Each province was allowed to send 10 delegates. Manitoba sent three family members and seven representatives from the province and aboriginal organizations. 

"Most definitely the families should have been first and foremost. It's happening directly to the families; the people who have experienced and lived it, went through that grief," said Bruyere.

Manitoba delegates

The delegates from Manitoba are:

  • Bernadette Smith — sister of Claudette Osborne.
  • Barb Houle — mother of Cherisse Houle.
  • Darlene Osborne — grandmother of Felicia Solomon.
  • Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger.
  • Minister of Justice James Allum.
  • Chief Francine Meeches of Swan Lake First Nation.
  • Shauna Fontaine — Southern Chiefs' Organization.
  • Joy Cramer — deputy minister of family services.
  • Nahanni Fontaine — government special adviser on aboriginal women's issues.
  • Lezlee Dunn — director, federal-provincial relations.

Family First

Leah Gazan, founder of the #WeCare campaign, is disappointed so few families were invited to participate.

"I think it is important to honour families who do want the roundtable," said Gazan.

Carla Bruyere holds up a flower that she found while combing the banks of the Red River on Sept. 24, 2014. She and her group found an area that has become a home for at-risk youth in Winnipeg. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)
"I do question the narrowness of people that are allowed to attend. I think that if the Conservative government really wanted to listen to families that they really should have opened the doors wider."

Gazan said past roundtables with the indigenous community haven't yielded results. She hopes the government will listen to these families and act on the recommendations they make.

She added that while it's important to discuss the issue, immediate action is needed, such as restoring funding that was cut to advocacy groups for missing and murdered women.

"I think all of the cutbacks on all of our women's organizations is an attack on indigenous women in Canada and it's an attack on our safety," said Gazan.

The government agreed to engage in the roundtable discussion, despite its resistance to call a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.

The roundtable was a closed meeting of families of the missing and murdered women, indigenous organizations and provincial and federal politicians.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been working as a journalist for nearly 15 years. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor

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