THUNDER BAY – The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) has restated a commitment to serve as a point of contact for families who wish to speak to the National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry following a revelation that less than 10% of the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are registered on the Inquiry database.
A spokesperson from the MMIW Inquiry confirmed on Monday that only 90 cases are registered in their database. This number is in contrast to over 1100 cases reported to be in the RCMP database. In addition, the federal government has provided several hundred names to the Inquiry commission, as confirmed during question period in the House of Commons on Monday by Indigenous Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennet.
On Monday during debate in the House of Commons NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson (Nanaimo—Ladysmith), asked, “The families of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls want justice, but they also want to be heard. Shockingly, the inquiry commission only lists 90 victims, and the government is refusing to provide additional names. The Native Women’s Association of Canada has identified 4,000 victims, and we know that might be only the tip of the iceberg. With hearings scheduled in just eight weeks, is the government blocking information to the inquiry? Why is it not doing everything in its power so that all families can be heard?”
Minister Bennett responded, “We are absolutely not blocking anything. We will be doing everything in our power to get it the information. The Native Women’s Association, the AFN, ITK, and all of the organizations, are working in close collaboration with the commission, and the families will be heard”.
The Minister says, “Our government is absolutely determined to address this national tragedy. We have provided the commission with many resources, including a database that contains hundreds of names. We are also actively working with the commission to ensure that it has the necessary tools to contact these people and organizations. Our government will continue to provide information and advice to the commission with respect to its current commitments”.
With the hearings anticipated to start in May, ONWA believes only 90 names in the database is grossly inadequate. “We’re really distressed by this news, especially this far into the Inquiry process,” states ONWA President, Dawn Harvard. “That’s really distressing for a lot of the families who have gone into this fully believing that their voice is going to be heard and they’re waiting for somebody to come to them…families don’t realise the onus is on them to contact Inquiry staff, rather than the other way around.”
ONWA is taking a proactive approach and inviting families to contact ONWA to be put in touch with the Inquiry, as well as to receive support through the process. In addition to serving as a connection point to the Inquiry, ONWA will connect families to trauma-informed services in the community and hold special ceremonies in different areas of the province to help support families process the grief and trauma around losing a loved one.
“The Inquiry process is likely to be traumatic for any families who choose to participate, and it is important they have the supports around them,” states ONWA Executive Director, Cora-Lee McGuire- Cyrette. “It’s important that families know not only that they have the opportunity to have their voices heard, but that they will also be supported to do so and get the care they need”.
Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Ontario can contact ONWA directly by calling 807-577-1490 or by emailing Jolene Banning at ONWA email@example.com.