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Who is She? campaign about mobilizing people.

TORONTO

We will no longer wait for the federal government or a national organization to start an inquiry into missing and murdered women (MMIW) and girls, said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day at a media conference in Toronto on Sept. 9.

On behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario Chief Day announced the launch of an online campaign to create awareness about the issue of MMIW and to start the process of raising funds to hold an inquiry. Through the campaign "Who is She?", Ontario First Nations hope to engage Canadians in a dialogue about the critical issue facing First Nations communities. The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and secretariat for Ontario's 133 First Nations.

Denise Stonefish, deputy grand chief of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, said First Nations women and girls have no sense of safety or security in this country.

"We are in a situation where our women are devalued and that we're tossed away, a disposable item," said Stonefish. "We can't hold them back," she said. "We want them to go off to school and get educated."

Who is She?, explained Day, is the first step towards launching a First Nationsdriven inquiry. Fie agreed that the timing, in the middle of a federal election campaign, is strategic.

"It's a wonderful time to get our message across," he said. "People are wondering what the issues are." This is happening in their own backyard, he said, "and if we were to wait until the election campaign is over, we would be remiss. We would have missed a huge opportunity ... for Canadians to get a good handle on what the issue is right across the country."

In June 2014, the Ontario Chiefs in Assembly passed a resolution calling for an Ontario provincial inquiry independent of government interference or funding. Who is She? is a follow up, not only on that Resolution, said Day, but also follows up on a meeting held by Ontario chiefs in February this year with families of MMIW and girls.

The February meeting between First Nations leaders and 15 families of MMIW was to get advice and direction from the families on the design of the inquiry based on Indigenous values, protocols and realities, said Stonefish. The message from the families was very clear, she said.

"The loss of these women and girls affects our communities greatly. Each and every one of them left behind loved ones and, in many cases, children ... the Who is She? campaign recognizes and upholds Indigenous women and girls as the givers of life," she said.

"First Nations families cannot wait for Ottawa to stop Indigenous women and girls from disappearing," continued Stonefish. "First Nations leadership understands it must take action to address the violence, and the most effective way of addressing this systemic issue is to engage in a First Nations-driven process; a First Nations-driven inquiry to examine the issue of violence against Indigenous women and girls."

Several groups have expressed support, but the type and extent of that support needs further discussion, said Day. The Ontario Provincial Police, the Ministry of the Attorney General, and Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections have all expressed an interest in the campaign.

The Political Accord signed in August between the Chiefs of Ontario and the Ontario government pledges a working relationship, said Day, "that we are going to go arm in arm and face these difficult issues together." Although he was not at liberty to give specific details, Day said all the MMIW cold cases in Ontario will be investigated.

The website for the campaign, www.whoisshe.ca, will feature a short video that will be aired on TV, said Day. It will also include video stories from families of MMIW and a place for people to donate to the campaign.

A dollar figure has not been determined for the Ontario inquiry.

"The inquiry isn't just about the expenditure," said Day. "It really is about mobilizing people, getting the message out there, creating the dialogue. What we're proposing here is to do whatever we can within our might, with the goodwill of our partners to establish the beginning phases of that inquiry."

By Barb Nahwegahbow

Windspeaker Contributor
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Title Annotation:news; investigation on missing and murdered women
Author:Nahwegahbow, Barb
Publication:Windspeaker
Date:Oct 1, 2015
Words:698
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