More action needed on calls for justice, survivor says on MMIWG Awareness Day

It’s been more than two years since 231 Calls for Justice were released, but advocates and First Nations leaders say not enough progress has been made to help stop the genocide identified by the National Inquiry.

On Monday, people across the province marked Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day – a day aimed at remembering and honouring victims and families – with walks and vigils.

On the day of awareness, survivor Rachel Willan paused to reflect at a monument at The Forks honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“It’s tough having trauma,” Willan said. “It’s tough going to bed at night. We have to live with it and keep going every day.”

Willan testified during the National Inquiry as a survivor of violence. Two years later, she feels not enough progress has been made to implement the inquiry’s 231 Calls for Justice.

“If we’re crying out for help we should not be judged, we should be further helped,” Willan said.

In 2017, Manitoba declared Oct. 4 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day.

Organizers of Monday’s Soles on Fire five-kilometre run and walk said it is incumbent upon all people, not just Indigenous people, to learn more about the recommendations made by the National Inquiry.

That is why they made up signs — each containing one of the 231 Calls for Justice and a QR code — to set up at The Forks and along the walk’s route.

“It’s not to be in your face, but it’s just to be gently reminding people that this is still occurring on our land and we want to have allies,” said Angela Lavallee, organizer of the Soles on Fire walk. “We want people to start having that conversation so that no more of our Indigenous women and girls are violated.”

In an online survey of First Nations people in southern Manitoba, 80 per cent of the 86 respondents said they are either a family member or friend of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman, girl or person or a survivor of violence.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, which conducted the survey said the results point to a larger problem of the impact of colonial systems on Indigenous people.

“People aren’t made vulnerable through who they are or their families, they’re made vulnerable through public perception and policy that has created a circumstance where people are in poverty, people are susceptible or vulnerable to addictions,” Daniels said.

The Manitoba government said there are a variety of initiatives underway to support the Calls for Justice, including $6.4 million earmarked in April for 24 community organizations to help victims.

But as a survivor, Willan feels little has changed since the inquiry ended.

“So while our people are out there suffering with mental health and addictions, being further exploited and further harmed we need preventative measures being put in place right now.”