Indigenous women's voices must be heard, says new co-chair of provincial advisory council
Non-Indigenous MPP will no longer hold co-chair position, says Cora McGuire-Cyrette
The newly appointed co-chair of Ontario's Indigenous Women's Advisory Council says the province has heard the concerns of critics, and both chair positions on the council will now be held by Indigenous women.
"Indigenous women have a right to their own voice," said Cora McGuire-Cyrette. "They're the knowledge-holders. They're the experts in the issues that they face on a daily basis."
The Ontario government announcemed Sunday that McGuire-Cyrette, who is also the executive director of the Ontario Native Women's Association, would co-chair the committee.
It followed a previous announcement that MPP Jill Dunlop, the associate minister of children's and women's issues, would co-chair the council – a decision that garnered criticism as Dunlop is not Indigenous.
Dunlop will still be part of the committee, McGuire-Cyrette said, but will no longer serve as chair. A second co-chair position, to be filled in early July, will also be held by an Indigenous woman, she added.
The Indigenous Women's Advisory Council will advise the government on issues relating to the health, safety and well-being of Indigenous women.
"I'm honoured to take on this leadership role and I know it's not going to be easy," McGuire-Cyrette said.
"The mandate of the council is definitely going to be addressing some very difficult topics, and many of the issues we're going to be dealing with I'm also closely connected to as well, as an individual."
Personal experience will guide her, she said, as she and other members of the council help to shape policy recommendations related to the final report from the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, "so that other families don't have to go through the same thing."
Families are looking for the government to provide supports such as grief and healing programs, she said.
The council is expected to have its first meeting in early July. McGuire-Cyrette said her priority will be to form a clear vision and strategy for the council as it begins its work, she said, adding it's work she also hopes to see being done in other jurisdictions as well.
"This is something that nationally we need to look at as well," she said, "setting up these action plans and ensuring that Indigenous women are included into the discussions, and that this should be done on a regular basis, not just a one-time basis here."
"This is definitely something that is needed."
According to a government release issued Sunday, other members of the council include:
- Sylvia Maracle, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
- Sandra Montour, Six Nations of the Grand River
- Lyndia Jones, Independant First Nations
- Jennifer St. Germain, Metis Nation of Ontario
- Teresa Sutherland, Nishnawbe Aski Nation
- Amanda Kilabuk, Tungasuvvingat Inuit
- Marina Plain, Union of Ontario Indians/Anishinabek Nation
- Tracy Antone, Chiefs of Ontario