Northerners react to action plan on missing and murdered indigenous women
‘It’s starting the right way, it’s talking to us first,’ says Sandra Lockhart
Indigenous leaders in the North say they are pleased the government is finally launching its first phase of the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls by meeting and consulting with their families.
Ministers will be meeting with the families of missing and murdered indigenous women in Ottawa this week, as the federal government launches the first of two phases in the creation of a national public inquiry.
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"This has been a long ongoing issue in the Yukon," said Krista Reid, president of the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle.
"Every community has been affected by a loss of an aboriginal family member here in the Yukon territory," she added.
Reid said she is glad that the federal government is now taking steps to educate Canadians on this issue.
"It's not just a First Nations issue and it's not just a First Nations women's issue," she said.
"It's everybody's issue because it is happening in our backyards, it's happening next door."
Families should drive the process
Reid said the families should be the ones driving the process in the inquiry.
"They're the experts," said Reid. "We can't even pretend to know what they've gone through, and all we can do is hold their hand and walk beside them and hope to just make it that much easier for them."
Sandra Lockhart, an indigenous women's advocate in Yellowknife, said an inquiry into this long-standing issues "has never been done by us and through us."
"It's starting the right way, it's talking to us first," she said.
With the inquiry underway, Lockhart said what needs to be done next is to address the process at the community level.
"I think there's a grieving process coming," she said, adding that there will likely be a ripple effect from the inquiry that may open old wounds.
Investigating the missing and murdered indigenous women is only the first step for Lockhart.
"In time we need to start to look at what's happening with missing and murdered men," she said.
Lockhart said she would like the inquiry to help address systemic issues such as the problems with Canada's foster care system, criminal justice system and health care system.
"The vision is big, but I think more than anything I want to see us walk in dignity," she said.
Transparent and fulsome process
Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, said Inuit will be represented at the table, and she has already been in talks with federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett about the inquiry.
"I know, looking at the news, it seems like it's mainly for First Nations. But I can assure you that as Inuit and the organizations that lobby for Inuit women, we will be vocal and we will be fully participating in this."
Kudloo also stressed there's a need for support services during this process.
"We feel that not enough counselling for both women and men is available, and this will keep happening until we can provide services for the people," she said.
"We are encouraged to see the government announce an open, transparent and fulsome process that will lead to a national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women which involves engagement with victims' families as well as Inuit, First Nations and Metis representative organizations," said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in a statement.
"We are ready to work with all organizations that represent Inuit to tackle the Inuit-specific causes and find Inuit-driven solutions to strengthen our communities," added Obed.