Statement Regarding Missing NWAC Faceless Doll Panels, by Francyne Joe

Dear families and friends of our cherished missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,

Some of you may have seen the CBC news story this morning concerning the NWAC Faceless Dolls Project and the discovery that many of them had gone missing. These dolls were lovingly created by you, and by mothers, daughters, sisters, other family members, community members, and concerned citizens to commemorate and to pay tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

When I arrived at NWAC in October 2016, then was joined in November by our new Executive Director, Lynne Groulx, we were informed that approximately six months earlier, the panels containing the dolls that had been exhibited across the country, could not be found. Right away, we began asking questions, trying to determine what had happened to them. This discovery came at a time of great transition and some upheaval, with only a limited number of NWAC staff at the time they went missing.

As a result, we received contradictory stories of what had happened. One story was that they had disappeared while they were in the traveling exhibit. Another story was that they had been returned and were taken by a well-meaning individual, who felt a connection to the panels. We continued to investigate their disappearance, however, we received very little further information or verification. What we do know, is that 11 panels were originally created as part of this project, and only one panel remains under NWAC’s care.

My staff also consulted with an Elder, who shared that because the dolls and the panels had been so lovingly created, as well as the number of ceremonies performed in honour of the dolls, that the panels were considered medicines. This Elder assured us that the dolls are not lost, but rather ‘travelling’, and that one day they may return to NWAC. We received specific instructions on how to feast the remaining panel and how to care for all our sacred items. This is not the first piece of artwork or tangible project related to this work that has ‘travelled’, although it is the first time NWAC has experienced such a situation, and we pray that the panels will be returned to us. If anyone has additional information on what happened to the panels, I would very much welcome it. You will not be held responsible; we simply wish the panels to be returned.

I do want to take this opportunity to, first of all, say that I am sorry that this has happened. Although this happened before I became NWAC President, I take responsibility for this loss, and I am willing to do what it takes to make this right. The loving work by families was truly a tribute to our missing women and girls. I am available if any families wish to speak or meet with me.

I also want to explain why we did not make this information public sooner. We did not wish to cause harm or additional sadness to families and anyone who had created dolls for the panels. We also feared that if we shared this information, that we might put too much pressure on whomever may have the panels, and that they would never come back to us. We were also conscious that some of our former staff were upset that the panels went missing under their watch, and we did not wish to shame or blame. Mistakes were made, and NWAC has taken steps so that this will not happen again. I hope it brings some comfort to know that each and every doll that was part of the original NWAC Faceless Dolls project was photographed and has been catalogued. We are working to have these images uploaded on our website so that the memory of this precious exhibit will continue to touch individuals.

I also wanted to share that the NWAC Faceless Dolls Project continues through the creation of hundreds of NWAC Faceless Dolls Legacy Projects lovingly made by families, communities, and organizations who made their own dolls and display them with great pride and with honour. Although this work is no longer funded, I am touched by how many continue to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls through the creation of legacy projects.

Again, I wish to say that I am sorry that this has happened, and I am available if any family wishes to speak with me.

Merci, Thank You and Miigwetch,

Francyne Joe, President

Association des Femmes Autochtones du Canada – Native Women’s Association of Canada

1 Nicholas St., 9th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7

613-722-3033 ext 262

NWAC Continues to Support the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S

October 10, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) continues to support the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit people (MMIWG2S) and stresses the importance of approaching the National Inquiry with a Trauma-Informed lens.

“While there has been discussion about the need for the Commissioners and staff to apply a trauma-informed lens on all aspects of the National Inquiry work—for example, by being honest and transparent with what MMIWG2S families can expect at every stage of participation—,” shared NWAC President Francyne D. Joe, “NWAC is asking that we all remain mindful of the need to apply a trauma-informed lens when discussing the National Inquiry.”

This is not to say that we cannot be critical of the National Inquiry, there are issues that need to be resolved and many, NWAC included, are looking for reassurances that our concerns are being heard and plans are being put in place to ensure improvements are made. NWAC will continue to release Report Cards as well as work directly with the National Inquiry to provide guidance and support.

Applying a trauma-informed lens to discussions around the National Inquiry respects the reality that many families are counting on this important work. More than 750 individuals have registered to participate in some way with the National Inquiry. Several dozen have also provided testimony and evidence at the Whitehorse, YK and Smithers, BC Family Hearings. There are also long time advocates that came to NWAC and asked for us to support a call for a National Public Inquiry and these relationships continue to be honoured.

“As I continue to travel to country and our sister organizations continue to provide on-the-ground support to families,” explained NWAC President Joe, “we hear from families that are looking forward to participating, many considering sharing their story for the first time. These realities need to be considered every time the National Inquiry is criticized because these critiques do not stand in isolation but rather are connecting to the lives and experiences of the women, Two-Spirit people and families impacted by this violence.”

The presence of the National Inquiry itself also represents the first time Canadians may be introduced to the issue of MMIWG2S. We want the public to hear from families and learn about the root causes of this violence. And, similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we want Canadians to be empathetic and want to be part of a movement for social change. Disparaging the National Inquiry is distracting from the real issue and takes space away from the experiences of families.

“At the same time, we know that there are families that are calling for a ‘reset’ and NWAC respects every family’s choice to participate in any way they wish,” shared NWAC President Joe, adding, “[h]owever, until we hear from hundreds of families from all across the country, NWAC will remain committed to this process and continue to reiterate that we have a vested interest in the success of the National Inquiry.”


For more information, please contact:

Lynne Groulx
Executive Director
1 Nicholas Street, 9th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Toll free 1-800-461-4043
Tel: 613-722-3033 ext. 223
[email protected]

NWAC’s Voice Silenced Once Again at First Ministers Meeting

 October 3, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) was not invited to the First Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) on sustainable economic growth. NWAC’s exclusion from the October 3rd 2017 meeting has once again silenced the voices of Indigenous women at the federal level.

An aggregate of twelve Indigenous women’s organizations, NWAC represents the political voice of Indigenous women in Canada. NWAC President Francyne Joe stated “NWAC represents many Nations of Indigenous women who are life holders and water carriers. Canada must recognize that Indigenous women have established NWAC as their representative body at the regional, provincial, territorial, national and international levels.”

NWAC was previously excluded from First Ministers’ Meetings held March of 2016 and on December 9th, 2016, as well as from a high-level reconciliation meeting with the Prime Minister’s Office on December 8th, 2016.

Indigenous women are being systematically excluded from the Nation-to-Nation relationship with this government. “ Indigenous women have been disenfranchised long enough” stated Joe “They have suffered from historic injustices as a result of colonization, including loss of identity, dispossession of their lands, territories, and resources, which increases the many forms of discrimination and  violence against them.”

The existing nation-to-nation framework fails to decolonize Canada’s relationship with Indigenous women. “Its 2017 and we will no longer put up with these exclusionary actions. NWAC must be part of all Nation-to-Nation discussions” stated President Joe. NWAC is calling for the Government of Canada to ensure NWAC’s inclusion at all future meetings, and promote the active and equal participation of Indigenous women in decision-making.


For more information, please contact:

Lynne Groulx
Executive Director
1 Nicholas Street, 9th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Tel: 613-277-8831
Email: [email protected]