WINNIPEG – “We are very excited that we are able to initiate the Families First Foundation. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs receives calls on a regular basis from families requesting support in regard to searches for and investigations of their loved ones. Regretfully, AMC can only offer minimal support due to the lack of resources that we have. The Foundation will provide value and hope for families during the process of searching for loved ones and towards their healing path to cope with their grief,” stated Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
Yesterday a new foundation was provincially incorporated that will raise funds in order to respond to the ongoing issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
Informed by engagement with families of MMIWG (see backgrounder), the Families First Foundation is a separate legal entity from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs that will:
- Educate the public on the needs of families of MMIWG;
- Provide and coordinate the delivery of:
- religious, spiritual, emotional, cultural and financial support to families;
- translation services, media liaison services and independent legal advice to families;
- community-based mentorship and child-minding services to families;
- Provide communication services for the delivery of information to families; and
- Undertake activities ancillary and incidental to the abovementioned
A community-based board will guide the business of the Foundation, including families of MMIWG service providers, northern and southern community representatives and Elders. A call for Board participants has been made, and the first meeting of the Board of Directors will take place next month.
AMC Grand Chief Nepinak said, “I look forward to the full contingent of Board members to begin to carry out the business of the Foundation in the very near future. That, combined with individual, community and corporate support, will ensure the success of this essential and important initiative designed by families, for families of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.”
On November 12, 2014, the AMC endorsed Families First – a made in Manitoba approach to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) to create a recommended process for action. This was in response to the various activities AMC has been involved in, and partially in response to the renewed calls for a national inquiry into MMIWG. Instead of debating the merits of a national inquiry with the Federal Government and others, AMC listened what the families of MMIWG were saying: that they were not being heard. AMC decided that any approach to a proposed inquiry or process or action required engaging with and listening to MMIWG “families first”.
The AMC initiated this approach by working together with the Southern Chiefs’ Organization and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. The first phase of the Families First took place from September – December 2014. It started off with the recognition of the importance of ensuring the voices of the families are heard and their loved ones honoured. This involved bring affected families from across Manitoba together to have open and safe discussions around a framework for action for a process to go forward.
From the engagement sessions with families MMIWG Coalition and youth, it was evident that what is important are supports: police accountability; public education and awareness; protection of and support for youth; and Indigenous ways. These should be reflected in both process and actions on this issue, and be supported by a foundation that can raise funds to do the work. Four themes came forward on what the process should focus on:
- Tangible actions, including the identification of recommendations and plan for implementation;
- Education and increased awareness on multiple levels, including the general public and media;
- Address the concerns of the families with lack of accountability and negligence on part of policing agencies with particular focus on the investigation; and
- Achieving coordination, collaboration, comprehensive and centralized services for families to respond to the trauma and shock experienced in these situations.
Working together with the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) and a pro bono legal team, research included reviewing background materials on inquiries, commissions, roundtables, advisory panels, roundtables and case studies; and compiling the various recommendations relating to MMIWG from 43 past processes, and finding what recommendations have been implemented or not.
Families First Foundation is pleased to partner with Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre as the Charitable organization who will be receiving contributions and issuing a charitable receipt. Contributions can be made to:
Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Attention: Families First Foundation 445 King Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba R2W 2C5