Tag Archives: roundtable

MMIW Roundtable Hears Clear Message From Families Seeking Immediate Change


A memorial sits in the centre of a room hosting the national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in Winnipeg. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

CBC News Posted: Feb 26, 2016

Large number of indigenous children in government care is a major concern

As the national roundtable into missing and murdered indigenous women concluded in Winnipeg on Friday, the message from families has been “loud and clear,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says.

Changes are needed to how aboriginal people access mental health and addictions services, she said.

Significant improvement is also needed in education — both for indigenous people and in schools where the history and culture of First Nations are taught — and in policing, the criminal justice system and child welfare, Bennett said.

The fact that so many indigenous children are in government care today — more than at the height of the residential schools era — was one of the issues that came up many times, she added.

Carolyn Bennett

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says families don’t want to wait for an inquiry to be over before action is taken. (CBC)

“All of these things are something we heard very, very clearly yesterday,” Bennett said, explaining that Thursday’s roundtable was about government leaders and national aboriginal organizations listening to the concerns of families.

Friday’s agenda focused on talking and finding solutions. Federal, provincial, territorial and indigenous leaders have agreed to co-operate and support a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

Bennett said the commitment means the inquiry will be able to delve into provincial areas such as child welfare and policing.

“Without the formal co-operation of the provinces and territories, we could only launch a federal public inquiry that would look into federal issues in federal jurisdiction,” she said earlier in the day.

“We want to make sure we have their full support in designing a national public inquiry, because we don’t believe that a federal public inquiry can do the job.”

The governments also committed in broad terms to improving social and economic conditions for indigenous people.

In terms of child welfare, Bennett praised the move by some provinces, including Manitoba, to adopt a customary-care approach, which allows foster children to be placed with relatives or families in the same community and cared for according to traditional customs, rather than be sent away to non-aboriginal families.

That same kind of commitment to change is needed from all provinces and territories to make substantive changes to the other issues, Bennett said, noting those regional governments have jurisdiction on policing and treatment programs.

Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said the meeting was historic because all governments have committed to addressing key issues.

Details of the national inquiry, such as the scope, the cost and who will lead it have yet to be worked out.

Bennett joins vigil for slain Winnipeg woman

Bennett, who was with a crowd that marched in Winnipeg last night as part of a vigil for slain aboriginal woman Marilyn Rose Munroe, said changes to address the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women must be undertaken even before a national inquiry is complete.

“[There are] certain things the families … expect us to get on with it now, because this is still happening. People don’t want to wait until the end of the commission to get going on things,” she said.

Bennett is “very keen” to develop a plan to address housing, education and other changes necessary in child welfare and policing that don’t have to wait until the end of an inquiry.

Carolyn Bennett

Carolyn Bennett joins Sue Caribou at Thursday’s vigil for Marilyn Rose Munroe in Winnipeg. Caribou’s niece Tanya Nepinak disappeared in September 2011 after leaving her Winnipeg home to walk to a pizza restaurant a few blocks away. (Courtesy Cheryl James)


National MMIW Roundtable Starts In Winnipeg, Days After Aboriginal Woman Killed

Missing and murdered (CBC)

Missing and murdered (CBC)

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.

Marilyn Rose Munroe

The body of Marilyn Rose Munroe, 41, was found in a Pritchard Avenue house on Monday. Police have deemed her death a homicide but have not yet said how she died. (Facebook)

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.

“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.

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.


Roundtable Set On Missing, Murdered Women

WORKING TOGETHER – Elaine Taylor, Doris Bill, Adeline Webber, Doris Anderson and Krista Reid are seen left to right at this morning’s news conference. Photo by Vince Fedoroff

WORKING TOGETHER – Elaine Taylor, Doris Bill, Adeline Webber, Doris Anderson and Krista Reid are seen left to right at this morning’s news conference. Photo by Vince Fedoroff

By Pierre Chauvin  | Whitehorse Star

The Yukon will hold a regional roundtable on missing and murdered aboriginal women next February.

The announcement came this morning at a joint press conference involving the Yukon government, representatives from First Nations and aboriginal women’s groups.

Hosting the event was a recommendation from this year’s roundtable in Ottawa.

The Yukon had sent a delegation.

A family gathering will also be hosted on Dec. 12 in Whitehorse for First Nations families who have lost relatives to share their stories.

“The families deserve answers, concrete solutions and preventable measures,” Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill told the press conference.

Action at the national level is also needed, she added.

“That action will be limited if the federal government does not get on board.”

Many noted at the press conferences that the change in federal government brings hopes that an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women will be called.

“Given our recent federal election, I’m encouraged by what I’m hearing from our prime minister-designate (Justin Trudeau),” said Bill.

“With the change of government on Monday evening, we welcome the opportunity to engage with Canada on the matter of a national inquiry and how we can and must work collectively to address this national tragedy,” said Elaine Taylor, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate.

The Yukon Legislative Assembly unanimously approved a motion calling for a national inquiry in 2013, she added.

Despite repeated calls, Prime Minister Stephen Harper consistently refused to take action on an inquiry during his 2006-15 terms in office.

In 2014, he said the issue shouldn’t be viewed as “sociological phenomenon” but simply as crimes.

But on Tuesday, Trudeau said his government would be moving forward “quickly” when asked about calling a national inquiry.

Representatives from the Yukon government, the territory’s 14 First Nations, Yukon aboriginal women’s groups, the communities and even the RCMP will be at the roundtable.

“Our hope is that families of missing and murdered indigenous women are acknowledged and honoured and their voices are meaningfully reflected at the Yukon roundtable and integrated with the current and future actions,” said Taylor.

The invitation has also been extended to First Nations in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, Taylor said.

The latest statistics from the RCMP show more than 1,181 murdered and missing aboriginal women between 1980 and 2012.

“In Yukon, as in many areas in the country, we know sadly first-hand the tragic scope of this issue,” Taylor said.

There are 39 known cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in the territory, statistics Bill called “absolutely unacceptable.

“At a national level, the facts remain, there has been little accomplished,” she said.

The gathering and the roundtables are about putting the families and the victims first, said Doris Anderson, the president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council.

“These indigenous women and girls who have brought us together, have become leaders of a cause they gave their lives for,” she said.

“Let these events acknowledge that their stories are important and we will remain committed until their call for justice is answered.”

Those two events are not only about raising awareness but also providing healing, said Krista Reid, president of the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle.

She is organizing the family gathering.

“Every family member who has lost a loved one, we’re encouraging you to join us at the family gathering,” she said.

“We need to understand what you’re going through. We need to be aware of what it was you needed from the community in your time of grief.”

An emotional Reid added that being a mother herself, she couldn’t imagine the grief families endured after losing relatives, in particular, daughters.

Reid reminded the audience these two events are part of a historic context – the movement supporting the missing and murdered indigenous women started more than than 30 years ago in Vancouver.

“Now we’re just catching up,” she said.

Families who want to attend the gathering can contact event co-ordinator, Katie Johnson, at 332-5283.

While observers won’t be allowed, professional counsellors and elders will be available during the gathering.


2nd Roundtable On MMIW Slated For Early 2016 In Manitoba

Lorelei Williams, who attended the first round table in Ottawa earlier this year, said the first round table 'lacked meaningful dialogue'. (Facebook)

Lorelei Williams, who attended the first round table in Ottawa earlier this year, said the first round table ‘lacked meaningful dialogue’. (Facebook)

By Angela Sterritt / CBC News

Families want more representation, Premier Selinger wants ‘solid commitment from federal government’

A second roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women is slated for early 2016 in Manitoba. But not everyone is singing the praises of the roundtable, confirmed at a meeting of premiers and indigenous leaders in Happy Valley Goose Bay. NL, on Wednesday.

Earlier this year the first national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women was held in Ottawa. The invite-only meeting faced heavy criticism from family members and politicians.

The federal government’s financial commitment to the roundtable was questioned. As well, the government gave a very last-minute confirmation that they would send representatives to attend at all.

Greg Selinger

Premier Greg Selinger says he wants family members to be properly represented at the next roundtable. (CBC)

“The federal government needs to step up, we haven’t seen a solid commitment from them yet,” said Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger from the conference of premiers in St. Johns.

Families who took part in the first roundtable in February say the meeting was just a token and lacked meaningful dialogue. Some also said they felt re-traumatized by the limiting process.

“Only four family members out of the 100 that were invited were allowed to speak at the roundtable,” said Lorelei Williams. Her aunt Belinda Williams went missing in 1978 and cousin Tanya Holyk’s remains were found on the farm of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton. She’s been a staunch advocate since 2011.

Those chosen to speak at the roundtable were each allowed just four minutes to talk, and only on specific topics set on an agenda — which didn’t include stories of the families.

Each province was allowed to choose one of three themes: prevention and awareness, community safety, or policing measures and justice responses.

“Everyone wanted to speak, we were all fighting for our voices to be heard. I was shocked. I left crying, others left crying, it was really awful,” said Williams.

But Williams says despite what seemed like a divide and conquer tactic, connecting with the other family members on day one was important. That gives her hope for a second roundtable.

“We talked with family members and loved ones, it was sad to heard the stories but it gave us strength and healing.”

Melina Laboucan-Massimo was not invited to the first roundtable. Her sister Bella Laboucan-McLean, 25, fell 31 stories to her death from a downtown Toronto condo building in 2013. The investigation of her suspicious death remains open.

“Families need to be included in this roundtable from the start in a meaningful way. We need to understand how these decisions are being made. Its ultimately our families that go through this every day, this is a daily reality for us.”

Today Laboucan-Massimo is on her way home to Little Buffalo, Alberta. Two years ago she buried her little sister in a neighbouring community in Sturgeon Lake. Now she is returning for Bella’s memorial. For Melina it’s a reminder of the other indigenous women missing or murdered in Canada, and the struggle to be heard.

Laboucan-Massimo says now that Canadians know there is a problem, solutions need to be sought.

“We can’t continue the victim blaming, as if violence only exists in our communities, we know this is a cross country issue that has systemic roots.”

She says indigenous women want to know how the RCMP came up with its recent numbers surrounding violence against missing and murdered Indigenous women; what the impunity rate is for those who murder indigenous women; and what the rate for unsolved cases is.

Premier Selinger says he wants family members to be properly represented at the next roundtable. In the meantime he says Manitoba will host a justice summit prior to the roundtable to look at preventing people from going missing and murdered.

As for Williams, she has hope the next roundtable will work harder to listen to indigenous family members, and give them more than just four minutes of time to tell their stories.


Sister of slain Indigenous woman tells premiers, federal cabinet ministers: blood on your hands

Judy Maas

                                                               Judy Maas

By Jorge Barrera | APTN National News | Posted Feb 27 2015

Judy Maas’ turn arrived again to speak in the final moments of Friday’s national roundtable on murdered and missing Indigenous women and, facing federal cabinet ministers and provincial premiers, she told them they had all “failed miserably.”

Maas, whose 35 year-old sister Cynthia Maas was murdered by a serial killer in 2010, was one of four delegates chosen to represent the families of the murdered and the missing around the big table where the premiers of Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories sat along with the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the federal Status of Women Minister.

“In our opinion you have failed miserably. Canada must address the shame they have created by systematically taking the Indian from the Indian. This policy has put blood on your hands, the blood of innocent women and children who have suffered the greatest insults, the price of their lives,” said Maas, according to a recording of the closed-door meeting obtained by APTN National News. “My baby sister was worth more than the mere pittance of short term funding and solutions.”

The room was dead silent while she spoke, but erupted in applause after she ended, according to the recording.

Provincial and federal leaders, along with the heads of the major Indigenous organizations across the country, responded by agreeing to meet again next year and begin developing a national approach to dealing with the disproportionate number of Indigenous women and girls who face deadly violence.

The historic one-day roundtable held at the Marriott Hotel in Ottawa also produced a finalized framework to guide ongoing work on the issue leading up to next year’s meeting which will be held in Manitoba and focus on policing and justice issues. The meeting’s delegates also agreed to immediately begin developing a pan-Canadian awareness campaign about violence against Indigenous women.

“It is a national issue, it is not an issue for one organization or one province, it is a national issue. It is not even just an Aboriginal issue, this is an issue for every single one of us,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. “We are together in this country and if one child is vulnerable and unsafe, then we all are.”

NWT Premier Bob McLeod, who chaired the meeting, and Wynne both said there were some issues that the two levels of government couldn’t reach immediate agreement on, but neither would describe them.

“(Ottawa) will have to answer the question on their own. The fact is that the provinces and territories and the Aboriginal organizations across the country are working very hard on these issues,” said Wynne. “We are on the same page, we are working to find a partner with the federal government.”

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt both denied there were any disagreements during the roundtable.

“Actually, we supported each of the action items that were put forward on the table, whether it be the actual framework or the pan-Canadian action plan that Premier Wynne put forward, those were things we supported,” said Leitch.

What Ottawa did disagree with was a request from Wynne that all sides represented at the roundtable hold a joint press conference.

According to audio obtained from inside the meeting, Wynne asked the federal representatives to join the rest of the group.

“I heard a rumour that Canada was going to be doing a separate press conference. I just hope that’s not the case because I think it would be wonderful for everyone to be together,” she said.

Leitch, however, alluded to a possible security issue being the reason behind the decision to hold separate pressers, according to the audio recording.

“I’m in the hands of the RCMP, to be frank with you,” said Leitch, according to the audio recording.

APTN National News asked an RCMP officer who was part of the security detail at the Marriott Hotel whether security issues were keeping the federal ministers from joining the rest of the delegates at the press conference. The officer said the decision on press conferences was up to the federal politicians.

Leitch told reporters at the federal media event, which was held at the Delta Hotel across the road from the Marriott, that the decision was made in the best interest of the family members.

“Out of respect to the 20 organizations as well as to the families we felt that they should be able to get their message out,” said Leitch.

There was a minor security issue during the roundtable after some family members of murdered and missing Indigenous women, along with a hand-full of demonstrators entered the Marriott’s lower lobby demanding people walk out of the roundtable.

RCMP, Ottawa police and hotel security kept a wary eye on the group which was pacified to a degree by Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association President Cheryl Maloney who left the roundtable meeting to stand with the demonstrators and family members.

Back inside the roundtable meeting, Maas drew a line from Canada’s colonial history to the government institutions it created and the death of her sister.

“Some have enjoyed the benefits taken from our lands, but we, the first peoples, have not enjoyed that, nor have we enjoyed the freedom or the human rights. There are no dollar amounts that can bring back or replace our loss,” said Maas, according to the audio recording of her closing remarks. “Please do not insult my intelligence. I challenge you to take what you heard, to truly understand, to move forward out of the dark ages and create some measurable outcomes…I can take my sister as an example and measure her experience against the system, where it failed, how it failed and why it failed for her. The ministry of children and family was instrumental in putting the final nail on her coffin and her killer, only a means of physical death.”

Maas’ sister Cynthia Maas was murdered by serial killer Cody Legebokoff who was sentenced to 25 years in September 2014. Cynthia Maas’ remains were found at a park in Prince George, B.C.

“I can tell you that I and others know first-hand the underlying racism and hatred within all systems in Canada,” she said. “You as leaders have a duty and obligation to stand against the wrongdoings, immoral judgments unethical actions of your own.”