By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
The federal government is investing $180 million into programs and services to address the ongoing issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to support victims’ family members and loved ones.
During a Thursday morning press conference at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata centre in Winnipeg, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett joined members of the National Family and Survivor’s Circle and other Indigenous partners to announce the new investments, and how the money will be spent.
As part of the funding, $108 million will be spent to create the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities Program, which will support Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples in gaining “meaningful access to their cultures and identities through culturally relevant spaces.”
The feds will also put $12.5 million into a new program to support the wellbeing of families and survivors of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Over the last few decades there have been thousands of reported cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and during Thursday’s press conference Bennett discussed how the ongoing issue can be directly linked back to the horrors of Canada’s residential school system.
“During this summer of reflection as Canadians absorb the realities of the horrors of residential schools and the missing children in unmarked burial sites, the damaging legacy and intergeneration trauma persists today,” Bennett said.
“Once you know the truth you can’t un-know the truth. Canadians are now joining the journey of reconciliation in numbers unprecedented. Canadians now recognize and feel what it must have felt like to have your children taken away from you against your will, and some to never return home.
“Today we make the link between those damaging colonial policies, the Indian Act, residential schools, forced relocation, and the taking away of language and culture, and link it with the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.”
In a press release the federal government also said that the root causes behind the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and of violence against Indigenous women must be addressed moving forward.
“Root causes such as poverty, insecure housing or homelessness, and barriers to education, employment, health care and cultural supports have resulted in multigenerational and intergenerational trauma and marginalization,” the government of Canada said in a press release.
“Colonial and patriarchal policies have displaced women from their traditional roles in communities and governance, and diminished their status in society, leaving them vulnerable to violence.”
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.