'We all have a common goal': Sudbury MMIWG conference brings families, community together
Two-day conference includes workshops, presentations and performances
More than 270 people are gathering in Sudbury this week for the Honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Conference, hosted by the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre and the Greater Sudbury Police Service.
The conference includes workshops, presentations and performances, and covers topics ranging from violence prevention to healing from trauma.
Turnout for the first day was overwhelming says Lisa Osawamick, one of the organizers. She is the Aboriginal Women Violence Prevention Coordinator for Sudbury Police.
Some people who wanted to register last minute had to be turned away because the venue was full.
"It's amazing to see how many people have the love and the respect [for] the work that we're doing around honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and that want to learn, that want to share, that want to heal," Osawamick says.
Need for support in northern Ontario
Stefanie Peltier, a volunteer at the event, says the response to the conference shows how important it is to have resources and support in the community.
"It just shows that there's a need, especially in this area, to support our people and our families that have loved ones that are missing and murdered, and to try to empower our young women," she says.
Peltier works with the Raising the Spirit Mental Wellness Team, an organization that serves First Nations communities around Manitoulin Island.
She hopes to take away a better understanding and awareness of how these communities are impacted by MMIWG.
Families of MMIWG share their stories
John Vallely lost his mother when he was 14 years old, and says the conference is an important opportunity for families to share their stories.
"There are many allies and supporters who are here at the conference, who will take what they've heard, and bring that back to the circles of community that they are a part of," Vallely says.
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Vallely says it was encouraging to see Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger, Chief of Police Paul Pedersen and other members of the police board at the opening ceremony.
For Osawamick, the goal of the conference was to bring family members, leaders and other members of the community together.
"We all have a common goal. We don't want to have any more missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and we want to be proactive."