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Yukon releases MMIWG2S+ strategy in response to National Inquiry

After one year of consultation with family members, First Nations governments and leaders, Yukon released a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-spirit+ (MMIWG2S+) strategy on Thursday.

Four main paths outlined, with 31 key actions for Yukon to take in upcoming years

The sacred fire ceremony that kicked off Thursday's event. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

It has been three years since the first public hearings for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls took place under a tent on the grounds of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in downtown Whitehorse. 

And on Thursday, after one year of consultation with family members, First Nations governments and leaders, Yukon released a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-spirit+ (MMIWG2S+) strategy.

The National Inquiry's final report was released in June 2019, with 231 calls for justice — steps the report says need to be taken by governments and Canadians in order to end the genocide against Indigenous women and girls.

Yukon's plan is an answer to the National Inquiry's calls to action, and claims to be the first of its kind in Canada.

The plan, "Changing the Story to Upholding Dignity and Justice: Yukon's MMIWG2S+ People Strategy," is a territory-wide approach to address the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people over the next 10 to 15 years.

The strategy includes four paths, each one a direct response to the four pathways highlighted in the National Inquiry's final report of maintaining colonial violence.

The paths prioritize 31 actions for Yukon, and include:

  1. Strengthening Connections and Supports
  2. Community Safety and Justice
  3. Economic Independence and Education
  4. Community Action and Accountability

'Historic day'

Territorial and federal leaders gathered on Thursday, both virtually and in-person, to sign on in support of the plan and its vision.

Chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation Doris Bill called it a "historic day," while acknowledging the grieving families in her community.

The Yukon committee was created in 2015 to connect the National Inquiry work to families of MMIWG2S+, and Indigenous survivors, experts and communities in the territory, and to guide the first Yukon regional roundtable on the topic.

Yukon released its MMIWG2S+ strategy on Thursday, with multiple officials pledging their commitment to the plan. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

The committee is co-chaired by Chief Bill, along with Jeanie McLean, the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, and Ann Maje Raider, executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women's Society. 

It also includes representatives from Indigenous women's organizations in the territory, family members of MMIWG2S+ people, LGBTQ community members, and representatives from the Canadian government and the RCMP.

From January to June, the Yukon Advisory Committee met with key partners, including family members, all 14 First Nation governments, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the AFN Yukon Regional Chief and the vast majority of municipal governments.

Joan Jack, seen holding the microphone, gave testimony with her family in Whitehorse in 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The "whole-of-Yukon approach" includes all governments, partners and contributors in joining efforts to create change. It has four goals: 

  • Implementing a coordinated and effective violence prevention, intervention, and crisis response to contribute to safer and healthier communities across the territory.
  • Ending violence against all Indigenous people in Yukon, with emphasis on women, girls and two-spirit people.
  • Increasing the economic independence of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
  • Increasing public awareness and community engagement in ending violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

The strategy is intended to be a "living document that will grow and change as implementation proceeds and priorities for action change over time in response to evolving community needs." 

Speaking on Thursday, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said Yukon is setting a "tremendous" example for the rest of Canada.

You can watch the release of the strategy, which began with a sacred fire ceremony, below:

Here is a summary of the strategy's four main paths:

1. Strengthening Connections and Supports

Historical, multigenerational and intergenerational trauma was identified by the National Inquiry as one of  four pathways to violence.

This path recognizes that strengthening connections to support access to justice, recovery, and healing is an ongoing process "that is optimal when designed and developed by and for Indigenous people in collaboration with contributing partners." 

1.1 MMIWG2S+ Family/ Survivor Support and Involvement

  • Keep families at the heart of the strategy by providing ongoing support and involvement.

1.2 Commemoration

  • Acknowledging lives lost, honouring and commemorating MMIWG2S+ Yukoners and those connected to Yukon families by assisting to restore graves, fencing and markers.

1.3 Strengthen First Nation Identity and Connections  

  • Acknowledge and increase actions that strengthen connections to the land, language, culture, spirituality and traditional livelihoods. 

1.4 Community-based Mental Wellness Support  

  • Provide and improve community-based, culturally relevant mental wellness support for victims of violence, perpetrators of violence, children witnessing violence, victims of sexual abuse and other family and community members. 
  • Develop community–led accessible and appropriate options for detox, treatment, aftercare, healing and recovery. 
Chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation Doris Bill is one of the co-chairs on the Yukon Advisory Committee. Created in 2015, its aim is to connect the National Inquiry work to families of MMIWG2S+, along with Indigenous survivors, experts, and communities in the territory. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

1.5 Community and Land-based Infrastructure and Programming

  • Invest in community and land-based infrastructure and programming, including development and aftercare of facilities and camps in order to ensure options are available that align with community priorities. 

1.6 Indigenous Children and Families

  • Improve and expand culturally appropriate supports to Indigenous families, to ensure Indigenous children are raised in their own families and communities.  

1.7 Improvements in Health and Social Programs and Services

  • Work with partners to appropriately implement the "Putting People First" final report of the comprehensive review of Yukon's health and social programs and services.  

1.8 International Agreements on Rights

  • Explore options that apply the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) in the context of Yukon's Final Agreements, other modern treaties, and the evolving relationship with First Nations governments without agreements.  

2. Community Safety and Justice

Maintaining the status quo and an institutional lack of will was also identified by the National Inquiry as one of the four pathways to violence. 

This pathway includes actions to seek systemic change to "the structures that enact and enable violence."

2.1 Community Safety Assessments, Plans and Implementation

  • Conduct community-based safety assessments designed by communities to identify factors contributing to the ongoing perpetuation of violence and unsafe conditions.
  • Develop and implement community safety plans.  

2.2 Evaluate Sharing Common Ground:

  • An evaluation of "Sharing Common Ground — Yukon's Police Force Review" from 2010.
  • The evaluation should review the implementation of the recommendations and identify emerging needs. 

2.3 Restorative Justice:  

  • Improve options and coordination for youth and adult restorative justice in Yukon communities, with a focus on the safety and dignity of victims. 

2.4 Whitehorse Correctional Centre and Community Justice Services

  • Partner with Whitehorse Correctional Centre and Department of Justice to improve programs, services and supports for Indigenous people while incarcerated.
  • Support reintegration into the community with a focus on upholding the safety and dignity of women, girls and two-spirit people.  
Frances Neumann is greeted by Chief Commissioner Marion Buller as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls got underway in Whitehorse in 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

2.5 Sexualized Assault and Violence Response  

  • Improve victim-centered and crisis-responsive supports for victims of gender-based violence and sexualized assault. 

2.6 Violence Prevention and Response Programs:  

  • Review violence prevention and response programs and services and associated funding programs in Yukon to improve sustainability, positive outcomes and alignment with First Nations needs.  

2.7 Update of MMIWG2S+ Record 

  • Update the record of MMIWG2S+ with current information and include those who were not included in the original research project.
  • Create a record of missing and murdered Indigenous people in addition to the MMIWG2S+ record.  

2.8 Transportation and Communication

  • Create safe and affordable transportation and communication options to and between Yukon communities.  

2.9 Research Projects

  • Identify research priorities under the leadership of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
  • Conduct individual and/or joint projects to advance knowledge and information available on specific topics, including human trafficking affecting Yukon Indigenous people. 

3. Economic Independence and Education

Social and economic marginalization was one of the pathways to violence identified by the National Inquiry. 

This path of Yukon's strategy seeks to address this through enhancing the education and economic independence of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, in support of ending economic violence and building "pathways to freedom and self-determination."

3.1 Leadership, Education and Training Programs

  • Create and expand available options in leadership, education, and training programs grounded in culture for children, youth and adults.  

3.2 Post-Secondary Education and Professional Development

  • Improve funding for and access to culturally relevant career counselling, post-secondary education programs and community education outreach. 

3.3 Employment, Livelihoods, and Entrepreneurial Development

  • Increase and improve opportunities for Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people to create sustainable and self-determined livelihoods and economic independence. 

3.4 Resource Extraction and Major Infrastructure Projects 

  • Eliminate violence related to development projects in both workplaces and communities. Increase the  workforce capacity, mitigate negative impacts and improve the positive benefits for Indigenous women and Yukon communities.  

3.5 Workplace Physical, Psychological and Cultural Safety

  • Improve the physical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual safety of all Yukon workplaces for Indigenous women girls and two-spirit people.  

3.6 Safe Housing and Freedom from Poverty

  • Appropriately and safely meet the needs of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people, including the provision of gender-specific options for safe and affordable housing, food, clothing, and other essentials. 

The hearing room for the MMIWG National Inquiry in Whitehorse in 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

4.Community Action and Accountability

The fourth pathway to violence laid out in the National Inquiry's final report is ignoring the agency and expertise of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

This path in Yukon's strategy highlights the importance of working together, taking action,  and being accountable — while respecting the expertise of Indigenous people and communities.

4.1 Public Information, Training, and Education 

  • Provide culturally relevant public education about MMIWG2S+ issues and related priority topics.  

4.2 Intercultural Competence Training and Education:  

  • Provide education and training to all relevant public servants, judiciary and service providers in First  Nations, municipal, territorial, and federal governments.
  • This will be designed and delivered by Indigenous people where possible, with the goal of improving cultural safety.  
Terry Ladue breaks down while speaking to commissioners at the first public hearings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Whitehorse in 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

4.3 Media Roles and Responsibilities 

  • Improve accurate, respectful reporting of gender and race-based violence and eliminate the inaccurate portrayal of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in all forms of media. 
  • Work to ensure that the media can access relevant facts from the RCMP and other sources.  

4.4 Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment 

  • Implement culturally relevant, gender-balanced analysis in the YESA Act processes.  

4.5 Indigenous Women's Organizations 

  • Provide adequate, long-term funding for Indigenous women's organizations that supports effectiveness and enhances collaboration.

4.6 MMIWG2S+ Strategy Accountability Framework  

  • Embed an accountability framework into the strategy to ensure continued inclusion and involvement of MMIWG2S+ families, survivors, partners, contributors and all Yukon communities. 

4.7 2SLGBTQQIA Advocacy and Public Education:  

  • Assess needs and resources of organizations that engage in advocacy and education on anatomical sex, sexual orientation, sexualities, gender expression and identities.  

4.8 MMIWG2S+ Trust Fund 

  • Establish a trust fund for families and survivors of MMIWG2S+ to provide resources in priority areas as defined by families.

Chief commissioner Marion Buller gives her final remarks at the first public hearings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which wrapped in Whitehorse in June 2017. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

For immediate emotional assistance, call 1-844-413-6649. This is a national, toll-free 24/7 crisis call line providing support for anyone who requires emotional assistance related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. You can also access long-term health support services such as mental health counselling and community-based cultural services through Indigenous Services Canada.

Read the entire strategy here:

Yukon MMIWG2S+ StrategyMobile users: View the document
Yukon MMIWG2S+ Strategy (PDF KB)
Yukon MMIWG2S+ Strategy (Text KB)
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About the Author

Danielle d'Entremont

Reporter/Editor CBC North

Danielle d'Entremont is a reporter and editor for the CBC in Whitehorse.  Most recently she worked reporting in Yellowknife, after working as a national news reader for CBC Toronto. She has also worked for CBC Nova Scotia in her hometown of Halifax. When she isn't chasing stories she is on the search for the best hiking trails around town.  Send her your story ideas to danielle.dentremont@cbc.ca.

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