Violence against Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit+ people in Canada is an ongoing national tragedy. The Government of Saskatchewan is committed to improving relationships with Indigenous communities, supporting survivors and families, and securing a better quality of life for Saskatchewan families and communities.
When developing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls+ Community Response Fund, government sought the guidance of Indigenous women with experience in violence prevention, advocacy and mental health to ensure distinct Indigenous voices, perspectives and ways of knowing were incorporated.
Autumn LaRose-Smith, Lori Whiteman, Myrna LaPlante and Marlene Bear were involved in the project to tailor the fund criteria and supporting documents. They worked with Government Relations officials to ensure regional representation from northern, central and southern Saskatchewan.
Autumn LaRose-Smith is a proud Queer Métis woman currently president of the Provincial Métis Youth Council and Minister of Youth for the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan.
Lori Whiteman is from Standing Buffalo First Nation. She is the daughter of a long-time missing person and has dedicated her life to education, community advocacy and founding the Place of Reflection at the RCMP Heritage Centre.
Myrna LaPlante is a member of the Day Star First Nation, longstanding activist, community advocate, Iskwewuk E-wichiwitachik (Women Walking Together), and National Family and Survivors Circle member. Her aunt went missing in 2007.
Marlene Bear is a survivor of a residential school, an Elder from the Flying Dust First Nation and operates her own consulting business, Aurora Borealis Healing and Wellness.
Here is what they said about their partnership with the government.
Lori Whiteman mentioned being invited to participate in this initiative was an honour. She said, "I was so pleased to see the community-based focus being introduced to the funding initiative. The other women who joined me have unique backgrounds, experiences and connections to this tragedy of MMIWG2S+. I knew that each member would be committed to seeing this fund reach across the province and support preventative actions for the families and survivors and for all people to build their understanding and create safety and healing."
At the same time, Marlene Bear said, "I was thrilled to be able to be a part of this working group. Up in the North, where I'm working, the resources are scarce, and I thought this was a good time to create something new and more accessible. And this is important for the grassroots people that I know."
Myrna LaPlante said, "Back to that day, a lot of work was done in communities or small organizations without any funding or with minimum support. So I think anything to do with government support will raise awareness and gain more interest.” She added that her biggest wish is that the younger generation will be more self-aware and knowledgeable. "The available funding options will create more resources and activities for survivors, their families and allies. More importantly, it brings knowledge to the communities.”
On November 7, 2022, at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building with Indigenous representatives, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls+ Community Response Fund to secure prevention and build safety for Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit+ people in Saskatchewan.
The program budget of $400,000 is meant to support projects that focus on and promote prevention and mental health, and build safety for Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit+ people and their communities.
The new fund is an important part of Saskatchewan's actions in addressing issues raised by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Since the fund launched, 12 approved projects received funding (Appendix – List of Approved Projects). Successful applicants received project funding in the fourth quarter of the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Government collaborating with the Indigenous women to co-develop the MMIWG+ Community Response Fund is an action that addresses Call for Justice 15.6, which calls on society to protect, support, and promote the safety of women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people by acknowledging and respecting the value of every person and every community, as well as the right of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people to generate their own self-determined solutions.
For the 2023-24 fiscal year, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls+ Community Response Fund first intake closing date is June 16, 2023, and the second will be October 4, 2023.
The government will continue looking for opportunities to engage with Indigenous Peoples and develop respectful partnerships at many levels to respond to the issues raised by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
For more information on this government initiative, please visit saskatchewan.ca.