By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Indigenous officials are working on a plan to bring a monument that would honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to the city of Thompson, and they are asking Thompson city council to get on board to help them to cover some of the costs.
During an April 17 Thompson city council meeting in the northern Manitoba city, a delegation from Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak
(MKO) spoke to members of council, and asked for a number of contributions to help MKO erect the planned monument in Thompson.
MKO has been working on plans and designs for the monument for more than a year, and when plans were first announced, officials said it would be a place in northern Manitoba where families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls could go to grieve for and honour lost loved ones, and one that would bring attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
The monument’s design, according to MKO, was created after gathering stories and ideas through consultation with First Nations people and communities throughout northern Manitoba, and features a woman wearing a traditional jingle dress, with decorated outstretched wings behind her, and several depictions of northern Manitoba wildlife.
There are also plans to have the monument lit up at night, to resemble the northern lights.
During the council meeting, Heidi Spence, the director of MKO’s MMIWG liaison unit, said they are asking the city to fund the monument in a number of ways, including transferring the land where the monument would be built over to MKO, and by making a commitment to cover the monument’s monthly hydro costs.
MKO is also asking for approximately $25,000 for the installation of two 25-foot piles, and for an estimated $7,000 to cover one-time costs for things like test holes and foundation design.
While speaking to council, Spence said she hopes for the support because currently there are monuments for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in southern Manitoba, including one at The Forks in Winnipeg and one on the Sagkeeng First Nation, but none anywhere in northern Manitoba.
She said all funding for the construction of the monument itself has already been promised to MKO by the provincial government, and they now hope to have it completed by August of this year.
Thompson Coun. Duncan Wo spoke during the meeting, and asked if Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook and council believes this is something the city can afford at this time with a number of expensive projects already planned or in progress, including extensive roadwork and water and sewer upgrade projects.
“Are we able to handle this on top of what we already have on our plate?” Wo asked.
Thompson Deputy Mayor Kathy Valentino said although her and other councillors are supportive of the project, council would still need more financial details before making any commitments to handing over taxpayer dollars or city-owned land. She also wants to know if any additional funding could come from other grants or levels of government.
“I’d like to know what the other partnerships are, and where they can also help contribute,” Valentino said. “Because I think it’s very difficult as councillors to commit to unknowns when we use municipal dollars and taxpayer dollars, and to say that we will support electricity bills, and we don’t know a dollar amount. We have to justify every dollar amount that we commit to spending.”
Smook said council will now have further discussions before making any decisions about offering any or all of the support requested by MKO.
-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.