It was recently reported that Premiers have agreed to host a round table concerning the epidemic of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Shortly after, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Valcourt said that under the right circumstances, if the Council of the Federation and Aboriginal Leaders led the way, the feds would also attend that round table. The fact that all the premiers and potentially feds will sit and talk about the epidemic of violence is awesome, but I don’t want anyone to take this as placation or replacement for further action/study on this issue.We cannot stop advocating in our own actions to address this violence in the hopes of preventing future incidents from happening and working with families of missing and murdered relatives to support them in their healing and search efforts. I am alarmed at an element in the Minister’s comments on the potential round table, cited from this CBC article, that;
“We would certainly consider this, but it has to be more than just talks. Because they have been advocating for talks and talks and talks and we have been acting… It is also the responsibility of First Nations, and you know this is very seldom said, but a lot of work has got to take place at the community level among and within First Nations to eradicate this violence, to eradicate these murders and reduce them.” – Bernard Valcourt
What element am I alarmed at? It is the fact that our minister blatantly says work needing to be done at the community level to address violence is a concept ‘seldom said’. I am alarmed as a grassroots and community organizer, with a pretty consistent message of WE need to do what WE can in our own DAY TO DAY actions to address any systemic issues – especially violence, because this means our messages are not being heard. I say this every day. I believe we at the grassroots have been working and organizing very hard, and for a very long time to address these issues of violence. AYO has been role modelling in our Leadership Team the actions we hope other indigenous youth, especially young men,will take to create love and respect – the opposite of violence – since 2010. North Enders have been demonstrating for almost 3 years that violence must be addressed with information sharing and participating in community gatherings through Meet Me at the Bell Tower. This past summer, All Good in the Hood invited inner city residents to prevent lateral violence by participating in one of our ten weekly round dances with future plans in development. The underlying message in all of these initiatives are that we need start with the grassroots people to build our local capacity and understanding of this issues so we can be active participants in crafting a solution with other parties in the future. As community members, I can speak for majority of the helpers in my circle that we are not comfortable calling on a government led process/inquiry that neglects participation or the voices of those of us most affected by these issues, family and community members. We want to be a part of the crafting of and delivery of any solution for our relatives – women, children, in care, on the street.
I want to take this time to emphasize that my circle of helpers have adopted a position of NEVER SURRENDER in our local and grassroots actions. We are going to continue organizing until all of the women and children in our community are safe. The reason why we are organizing so hard at the grassroots level to send a strong message of ACTION to other Canadians and the various levels of government. Our message is being delivered with these words “see what I’m doing? that is what I want you to do”. We are not asking anyone to swoop in and solve our problems, we are currently doing what we can, in our circles of influence and control to move this issue into the spot light and role model positive, constructive actions that support the families. Would a national inquiry help? Many believe so. Would action today help? Of course! What do I continue to believe? The answer lies in you and I and our ability to band together. We have to role model the solution.
There is a Protest Camp ongoing at Memorial Park urging for a National Inquiry. A group of family and community members met last week to discuss the possibility of dragging the red river to search for bodies. Kendall Wood and his group Children Fighting to Keep Our Girls Safe has planned 2 high profile actions, led with ceremony and only continuing. Another children led action is planned “CHILDREN’S Manitoba-Wide Awareness WALK for the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls” on September 19th. Later that same day will be Meet Me at the Bell Tower followed later that evening by the second annual Midnight Medicine Walk. The Midnight Medicine Walk is led by a 17 year old AYO Leader who wants to do the action so we can take our medicines and healing to our relatives on the street at the time when they are actually out on the street. A Settler Solidarity group is in development to encourage non-Indigenous participation in the solution. There are also many efforts about to be unveiled around a special Concert & Fundraising/Education Campaign focused on engaging Winnipeggers and Canadians on the issue of Missing and Murdered Women. All of these efforts send the message that our actions are the example we hope for others to follow. The solution lies in you and I, let’s role model the solution through our actions and until every woman and child is safe – never surrender.