By Michael Potestio
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As Canadians commemorate Red Dress Day in Canada, local government leaders are keen on addressing the national inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and the report’s 231 Calls for Justice.
Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the report, visited Thompson Rivers University to discuss the inquiry in 2019 and suggested the municipality and the band should begin strategizing how they can address the report. Some of the recommendations, Buller noted, include better resourced First Nations police services, health care to be treated a human right, the need for mobile services, safe and affordable transportation services, greater context when educating students about first contact and expanding legal aid.
Direct action has yet been taken at the local level, but there has been engagement on the p 1/8art of the band and the city is ready to listen.
Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief, Rosanne Casimir, said the band on its own has not looked into how to implement the report, but it has been involved in discussions through other organizations, such as the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN).
Casimir herself, in March, made a motion at the BC Assembly of First Nations to expand engagement on the national action plan for the report.
“As a band, that is something we don’t have a department working on but what we do have is individuals who will be tasked to the various committees that are out there, advocating, supporting and participating,” Casimir said.
Asked what results may come from these talks with other First Nations groups, Casimir said the biggest will be plans on how they can work together on the recommendations, noting the BCAFN just held a four-day session on the MMIWG report and one such plan is forthcoming for Tk’emlups to review.
“We all want to see an end to the violence against individuals and we also want to work with everyone to ensure we have the same visioning and development for a national action plan and how we can do that together, so it’s not imposing upon, but it’s working together on, a national approach right down to the local approach,”
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said the city hasn’t specifically addressed the report, but takes its lead from the Tk’emlups band, which it meets with twice a year to discuss myriad issues.
“If that was their wish to have a consultation on that we certainly would,” Chrisitian said, noting its something that could also fall under the purview of the municipality’s community services committee.
May 5 is Red Dress Day in Canada, and Canadians are encouraged to wear red in order to draw attention to the more than 1,000 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
Casimir said the band will be posting an online writeup and asking people to say prayers on their own for those who have been lost and their families on May 5 as gatherings remain forbidden during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christian said it’s an important day for the City of Kamloops and Thompson-Nicola Regional District to recognize, noting some of the victims have resided in this area.
He said the day reinforces the need to focus on personal protection for Indigenous women when alone and in vulnerable situations and the beed for an aggressive enforcement response for reports of missing First Nations women.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry heard from 1,434 family members and survivors of violence, gathered testimony from 83 experts and knowledge keepers and held 15 community hearings and more than 50 statement-gathering events across Canada, Buller said, noting a research team also analyzed more than 900 studies for the report.
Michael Potestio is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the KAMLOOPS THIS WEEK. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada