Manitoba chiefs adopt 'family first' approach to address missing, murdered women

Manitoba chiefs say they are not waiting for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women to take action.

New initiative stems from frustration with lack of action by governments, says Derek Nepinak

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs walks with people at a rally for families of missing and murdered indigenous women in June. (Courtney Rutherford/CBC)

Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak says his organization is not waiting for another roundtable discussion or a national inquiry to take action on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. 

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs adopted and endorsed a new report they say puts the families of indigenous women at the forefront. 

Families First: A Made in Manitoba Approach to Addressing the Issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls for a number of recommendations including more culturally sensitive support for families, providing funding for honouring missing or murdered women and research on root causes.

Nepinak says the new approach stems from a frustration with the lack of action by provincial and federal governments. 

"Nobody feels any solution coming out of a roundtable discussion where the only outcome is another discussion," he said.

"We're losing children, we're losing women and girls — and men and boys for that matter — every week. There is a sense of urgency to this. We cannot sit back. We have to take action."

The report calls for the appointment of eight representatives called "Families First Leaders" that will be responsible for overseeing the process.

"We are not waiting for the federal government to come and consult us when it is time to do the inquiry, we're getting ahead of the issue now. We're specializing our knowledge, we're engaging in the research," said Nepinak.

The report was discussed at a general assembly of Manitoba Chiefs held at the Opaskwayak Cree Nation this week. 

In June, RCMP delivered an update on missing and murdered aboriginal women that pointed to a strong connection between homicides and family violence. Nepinak says the Family First approach will take a deeper look at root causes of violence. 

"When we think of contributing factors or what people will call 'issues' — are these really the issues or are they the consequences of living within the systemic and institutionalized violence that exists for our people?" said Nepinak.

According to the report, Manitoba has the third highest number of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.  


Connie Walker

CBC Reporter

Connie Walker is a reporter in the Investigative Unit at CBC News. Follow her on twitter @connie_walker