CBC News, Feb 25, 2016
Just a few days after another homicide of an aboriginal woman in Winnipeg, Canada’s leaders and families of murdered and missing women will meet in the city to look for solutions.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is hosting the second national roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), a gathering of provincial and territorial premiers, federal ministers, national indigenous leaders, and MMIW families.
The roundtable began Wednesday with a day-long, closed-door session for families only. The meetings on Thursday and Friday will bring everyone together.
Nahanni Fontaine, Manitoba’s special advisor on aboriginal women’s issues, believes there has been a shift in attitudes since the Liberals replaced the Conservatives as Canada’s government and is confident some solutions to the MMIW problem can be found.
In a 2014 report, the RCMP estimated 1,181 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in the country since 1980 — 164 are missing, 1,017 were homicides.
Of the five homicides in Winnipeg so far in 2016, three have been aboriginal women. Marilyn Rose Munroe, 41, was the most recent victim, after her body was found in a house on Pritchard Avenue on Monday.
- Missing & Murdered: Unsolved cases of indigenous women and girls
- Marilyn Rose Munroe ID’d as victim in Pritchard Avenue homicide
“What we’ve experienced in the last two months is just a stark reminder and example of what goes on across the country and why you know the second national roundtable is so important … for us to meet and to look at what we need to be doing in the immediate right now,” Fontaine said.
Both she and federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett — who came through the city earlier this month as part of her pre-MMIW inquiry tour — have called Winnipeg Ground Zero in the national awareness. The death of Tina Fontaine and the near-death of Rinelle Harper propelled the MMIW issue into a wider spotlight, Bennet said.
- ‘Tremendous anger’ in Winnipeg, pre-inquiry meeting with MMIW families hears
- Tina Fontaine’s family frustrated but hopeful before MMIW pre-inquiry meeting
- Carolyn Bennett shares lessons from pre-inquiry talks on murdered, missing indigneous women
Bennett’s tour and acknowledgement of the MMIW issue is proof that Canada is on the cusp of finally dealing with the matter, Fontaine said.
“If there was ever an opportunity for change, it is absolutely right now,” she said.
Meetings in Winnipeg with families of MMIW victims will be difficult, but an important way to find solutions, Fontaine added.
“In some respects [it can] re-traumatize them, that’s the nature of this issue. I often talk about family strength and resiliency and courage to constantly be called upon to share their journeys and stories and they do it,” she said, adding
there are plenty of supports on-hand for the families during the meetings.
Premiers, ministers and indigenous leaders will meet with the media at noon to update the roundtable discussions so far.