By Jensen, Randy on October 1, 2020.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) sub-committee of the City of Lethbridge’s Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee is making 25 recommendations to city council as to how it can help address the problem of violence against women and two-spirited individuals in the city, and respond to the 231 calls for justice stated in the national MMIWG report released last year.
“The 231 calls to justice were released in 2019, and we were asked by city council to look at them and create specific recommendations the municipality can work on,” said City of Lethbridge Indigenous relations co-ordinator Pamela Beebe, who was joined by fellow sub-committee members Treena Tallow and Merissa Smoke in speaking to reporters after her presentation to council during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting. “We formed a sub-committee under the Reconciliation Committee, and we finally finished those. In August we drafted a motion to bring those forward to a Community Issues Committee meeting.”
While the recommendations are extensive, and deserve a full read, three major ones came out of the report presented to council.
Beebe said one major recommendation was for city council to formally adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as Lethbridge’s guiding document for relations between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples in the city going forward.
“I would just be excited if people read it,” she said, “and were able to talk about it with us. But we are asking specifically that city council implement it so people have to start using it while working with the community.”
Another recommendation in the report was for the City to begin laying the groundwork for a new women’s shelter based on Indigenous cultural guidance to help women fleeing violence in the community.
“In fact people are turned away from shelters right now in Lethbridge even if they have children,” said Beebe, when asked why this was an important step, “because there is just no space right now. The thing about our culture is we don’t turn anyone away. So it would be for Indigenous women and girls, but obviously they would not be turning away people.”
Another significant step in helping to educate the public about the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people would be to create a permanent Sisters in Spirit monument to those who have been victimized from the Lethbridge region in the past.
“I think it is important to have a monument so we do acknowledge that this did happen,” stated Smoke, who also sits on the Sisters in Spirit organizing committee. “And so when we have a monument, people will ask a question and say, ‘What is that? What does that mean? What is surrounding that?’ That would create community engagement and start conversations. Because we need to start having those conversations. And we are talking about reconciliation, but honestly we can have no reconciliation without the truth. That monument absolutely will open up spaces for conversations.”
Tallow said city council should adopt all 25 recommendations of the MMIWG sub-committee, and provide the budget needed to begin taking incremental steps forward on fulfilling them.
“We can always do better,” Tallow said. “I think we are getting there, but we just kind of have to build a stronger foundation to where our Indigenous voices are heard.
“It’s affecting our community in many ways,” she emphasized. “Our Indigenous women are the matriarchs of our community, and they hold the glue together for our families. When Indigenous women and two-spirited LGBTQ, when they are targeted, it unravels the thread of our family structures.”
The complete list of the 25 recommendations can be found in the Community Issues Committee agenda packet for Sept. 28.
Sisters in Spirit Day to honour those Indigenous women who have died by violence from the Lethbridge region will be marked on Sunday.
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