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

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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.”

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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
lgroulx@nwac.ca

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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.

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For more information, please contact:

Lynne Groulx
Executive Director
1 Nicholas Street, 9th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Tel: 613-277-8831
Email: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Calls for Resignation of Senator Lynn Beyak

September 18, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – In response to the racist opinions stated by Senator Lynn Beyak, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is calling for her resignation and removal from the Senate of Canada.  NWAC considers Senator Beyak’s recent comments regarding First Nations people and the Indian Act to be directly supportive of cultural genocide and a threat to the distinct rights of Indigenous women.

NWAC President Francyne Joe elaborated on the impact of the Senator’s public statements in relation to NWAC’s work in advocacy, policy, and legislation.  “Right now, we are challenging the denial of our rightful place in the nation-to-nation relationship.  We are advocating for the decolonization of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples through the restoration of Indigenous women’s equal role in decision-making.”

“Senators are to bring wisdom and conscience to the work of legislating policy within a human rights framework.  By silencing our voices at the national level and giving political power to those whose ideas support assimilation and deny our identities, this nation is allowing systemic racism and sexism to continue.”

NWAC took issue with Beyak’s choice to highlight the implied positive aspects of residential schools instead of their horrific legacy through comments made in the Senate during March of 2017. Beyak has also made comments that were especially hurtful to transgender and Two-Spirit Indigenous peoples in Committee.

NWAC has identified the removal of sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act as a priority issue and feels compelled to take action to encourage Beyak’s removal from the Senate.  “It is unacceptable for a person who holds such racist opinions to be in a position to exert authority during the work to end sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act through Bill S-3,” confirmed Joe.

“Racist and ignorant perspectives continue to be heard over the marginalized voices of Indigenous women,” concluded Joe.  “Indigenous women must be given a more powerful voice at the national level in order to remove systemic barriers to our empowerment.”

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For more information, please contact:

Lynne Groulx
Executive Director
1 Nicholas Street, 9th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Tel: 613-277-8831
Email: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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National Voice of Indigenous Women Silenced at Federal Level

September 8, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has not received an invitation to attend the First Ministers’ Meeting announced on September 7th, 2017.  “The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada is continuing a nation-to-nation approach that deliberately excludes Indigenous women’s perspectives on decisions affecting their lives,” stated NWAC President Francyne D. Joe.

The First Ministers’ Meeting on October 3rd will address the implementation of the Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and sustainable economic growth. It has been documented that climate change has the biggest impact on those living in poverty, a group in which Indigenous women and children are overly represented.  When Indigenous people are displaced from land through colonization, climate change, and pollution, they are impacted mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. There is a profound impact on maternal health, economic security, and the ability to share cultural knowledge across generations.

“In order to recognize the value of Indigenous women and their communities, advance Indigenous rights, and combat gender inequality, Indigenous women must be involved in emergency planning, environmental sustainability, and climate change discussions,”elaborated Joe.

“This model for renewed relationships ignores the critical need for a gendered lens in decision-making. It devalues Indigenous women’s roles as equal representatives for their people and silences NWAC as the representative body that Indigenous women have established to advocate on their behalf at the national level.”

NWAC was excluded from the First Ministers’ Meetings held in March of 2016 and on December 9th, 2016, as well as a high-level reconciliation meeting with the Prime Minister’s Office on December 8th, 2016.  “The existing nation-to-nation framework fails to decolonize Canada’s relationship with Indigenous women,” emphasizes Executive Director Lynne Groulx.  “When our perspectives are ignored the government perpetuates structural inequality against all Indigenous women. It places Indigenous women as a secondary priority.”

“Indigenous women are strong, resilient, and deserve to speak for themselves and set priorities at the highest level. Our message to Prime Minister Trudeau is that nation building and reconciliation are Indigenous women’s issues,” concluded Joe.

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For more information, please contact:

Lynne Groulx
Executive Director
1 Nicholas Street, 9th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Tel: 613-277-8831
Email: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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New Federal Structure for Indigenous Affairs Must Include Full Consultation with Indigenous Women

August 29, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – As the Government of Canada announces the establishment of two new departments designated to undertake the work formerly performed by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), the Native Women’s Association of Canada affirms the need for its inclusion in the decision-making processes surrounding the structure and implementation of the changes.

“The Government of Canada has prioritized its needs by creating two new departments without the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous women,” stated NWAC President Francyne D. Joe.  The duty to consult with the institutions representing Indigenous peoples is recognized by Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and affirmed by Article 35 of the Constitution Act.  “Having not been consulted, we are now suddenly in the position of building the capacity to engage with both the Ministers of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and Indigenous Services,” said Joe.

“The dual approach may present a risk that the new delegation of responsibilities will create further bureaucratic barriers to the empowerment of Indigenous women.  The needs of communities must be the priority.  We expect to be full participants in decision making on any issue that effects Indigenous women and girls, including the formation of structural changes.”

“It has taken 20 years for the Government to implement the recommendation of the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) to reorganize INAC into new, separate departments.  Embracing the spirit of RCAP also requires the fulfillment of its recommendation that the full and fair representation of women in decision making is assured,” continued Joe.

“The creation of two new departments may present an opportunity to better define our role in the Crown-Indigenous and nation-to-nation relationship,” said Joe.  NWAC has outlined the ways in which the current federal government does not support the meaningful inclusion of Indigenous women in its position paper, Nation-to-Nation and Indigenous Women.  “The nation-to-nation framework must be expanded to include NWAC, in recognition of the critical need for a gendered lens on all matters affecting the well-being of Indigenous women and girls.  This includes legislative and administrative measures such as those announced by the Office of the Prime Minister.  I look forward to working with Minister Bennett and Minister Philpott on ways to enhance the well-being of Indigenous women and girls.”

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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: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Encourages Indigenous Women’s Leadership in Disaster Risk Reduction as BC Wildfires Continue

July 19, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is mindful of the great risk to the safety of Indigenous women, girls, transgender, and Two-Spirit people as wildfires continue to encroach on populated areas of British Columbia. In addition to great concern for the safety of communities at risk of fire and those currently under evacuation, NWAC recognizes the hardships facing those returning to their homes and those who have lost theirs.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of Indigenous women and girls’ lives will be affected by this,” commented NWAC President Francyne D. Joe. “Natural disasters are more likely to kill women than men and this disparity is amplified by socio-economic status. Statistically, this means that First Nation women on-reserve are in the most danger.”

President Joe represented the voice of First Nations and Métis women at the Marrakech Climate Change Conference in November of 2016 and NWAC continues to participate in the processes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As recognized by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Indigenous women hold traditional ecological knowledge that is vital to the success of disaster preparedness efforts.

“As global temperatures rise, we can expect that more fires will threaten the security of our people,” continued Joe. “Women are most often the ones caring for elderly persons and children and, largely for this reason, are the last to evacuate when natural disasters strike.”

“This nation cannot afford to omit Indigenous women from participation in efforts to address climate change. Indigenous women’s strong capabilities, intimate knowledge of their communities’ needs, and close connection to the land make them ideal candidates to guide and implement emergency measures that protect their homes, their economies, and lives,” said Joe. “I encourage every level of government and every community to champion Indigenous women’s unique perspectives and support our leadership in this area.”

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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: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Identifies Key Priorities for Supporting Indigenous Women and Girls at Council of Federation

July 19, 2017 (Edmonton, AB) – Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) President Francyne D. Joe addressed the Council of Federation (COF) on Monday regarding the importance of including  NWAC in all Nation-to-Nation discussions, the work of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry) in the scope of improving the socio-economic status of Indigenous women, and the need for a community-based prevention model to drive the child welfare system in all regions.

Hosted by Premier Rachel Notley, the Council of Federation includes all 13 provincial and territorial premiers and meets bi-annually and usually includes five National Indigenous Organizations (NIOs) in the summer meeting.

President Joe recommended that provinces and territories engage and support Indigenous women and the organizations advocating for them, using the support that Kathleen Wynne has provided to the Ontario Native Women’s Association as an example.  “The creation of permanent bilateral mechanisms between the Office of the Prime Minister and 3 of the NIOs recognizes racial discrimination as distinct but does not include a gendered lens,” said Joe.  “The marginalization of Indigenous women from the national discourse can be remedied on a provincial and territorial level through mindful action such as supporting our Provincial and Territorial Membership Associations (PMTAs); we’ve now offered to facilitate the forging of these alliances.”

NWAC identified the need to engage First Nations and Metis women on the grassroots level in order to better understand their distinct priorities and generate strong outcome measurements for the socio-economic empowerment of Indigenous women.  “Women, girls, transgender, and Two-Spirit Indigenous people need to be free from the disproportionate threat of violence in order to achieve equality,” stated Joe.  “This is one of the ways in which the recommendations of the National Inquiry will support socio-economic advancement.”

Urging action on the dire crisis within the child welfare system, Joe provided the following message during a post-meeting press conference on Monday.   “We need to support Cindy Blackstock and Jordan’s Principle. We do hope to have more support from the Premiers at some point so we can ensure that this government follows through [on delivering] equity for our children.”

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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: lgroulx@nwac.ca

 

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Francyne D. Joe Receives 3-Year Mandate from NWAC Annual General Assembly

July 17, 2017 (Edmonton, AB) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) would like to thank Ministers, Senators, Elders, Youth, delegates, and observers for supporting NWAC at its the 43rd Annual General Assembly (AGA).  The event, held on Treaty 6 territory in Edmonton, Alberta from July 15th to 16th, 2017, resulted in the election of Francyne D. Joe as President.

Over 120 attendees were welcomed by Alberta’s Minister of Indigenous Relations, the Honourable Richard Feehan, who recognized Indigenous women’s exclusion from the Nation-to-Nation relationship and stressed the need for Indigenous women’s expert voices in leadership.

NWAC Western Elder Roberta Moses, NWAC President Francyne D. Joe, and former NWAC National Youth Rep Nikki Fraser all hail from British Columbia.

Keynote speaker and Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Carolyn Bennett reiterated her support of the implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and pledged to work alongside NWAC in developing measurable outcomes for the successful empowerment of Indigenous women and girls, identifying the need for services for Indigenous people to be delivered by Indigenous people as a key element in that work.

INAC Minister Bennett presented on the Saturday.

Two former NWAC Presidents, Commissioner Michèle Audette and Dr. Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, enlightened attendees with updates from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry) and an appeal to support the Senate’s proposed amendments to Bill S-3 known as 6(1)(a) all the way, respectively.

Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Senator Lillian Dyck, gave an update on Bill S-3 and the removal of sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act and outlined her reasons for drafting Bill S-215: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for violent offenses against Aboriginal women).

One of the most vocal supporters of addressing the effect of racial and sex-based discrimination through law and policy in the House of Commons, Senator Kim Pate, drew strong parallels between the root causes of the over-incarceration of Indigenous women and those contributing to the disappearances and murders of Indigenous women and girls.  For immediate action, she called on communities to claim responsibility for rehabilitating or sponsoring women in their own communities.

Senator Kim Pate provided context for pressing issues concerning Indigenous women and girls on the Sunday.

“Thank you to everyone involved in this year’s AGA for sharing your time with us in order to help build a better future for the next generation of Indigenous women,” said Joe.  “Being joined by so many powerful people reassures me that recognition of the need for the voices of those with the lived experiences of Indigenous women to shape the way that this nation addresses the issues that affect us is growing. “

NWAC delegates brought healing to the space with drumming and song.

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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
lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Joins the Call for a Restructure of the National Inquiry into MMIWG

July 11, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – Following the resignation of Commissioner Marilyn Poitras yesterday, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is joining the call to restructure the current process of the National Public Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry) and concentrate on delivering a Families First model.  After lobbying for an Inquiry for more than a decade, NWAC is committed to the successes, outcomes, and legacy of a National Inquiry.

“This process has lost its focus on those who are impacted by the loss of loved ones and on honouring the lives of Indigenous women,” observed NWAC Interim President Francyne D. Joe.  “The departure of a Commissioner, immediately following the resignation of the Executive Director, is a clear indication that there are unresolved structural issues occurring at the highest levels. It’s time to give families the barrier-free process they deserve.”

Ten months into the National Inquiry’s timeline, the Commissioners must now accept the responsibility of building a new model.   It is NWAC’s belief that the National Inquiry must be correct fundamental issues in its framework and assures families that this kind of course correction was successfully adopted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“The National Inquiry spent months getting advice from families and international human rights bodies and this is not reflected in its structure,” said Joe.  “We need to see the implementation of a trauma-informed process with a human rights-based approach.  There has to be a direct departure from the legalistic approach we’ve seen in the allocation of funds and multiple bureaucratic barriers to the participation of families, such as the inadequate availability of support and resources available to those wishing to participate and the needlessly intense vetting process.”

NWAC supports the implementation of the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the report of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in all the procedures of this Inquiry, particularly creating mechanisms to order independent reviews of individual cases where there are outstanding concerns about the adequacy of police investigations.

“Trust from families is the only meaningful source of credibility and confidence in the National Inquiry,” concluded Joe. “The consequences of this cannot be the burden of grieving families.”

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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
lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Welcomes Announcement of More Hearings to be Held by the National Inquiry into MMIWG

July 6, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is continuing its work in seeking accountability from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry) as they announce a preliminary schedule of hearings.  Chief Commissioner Buller’s comments at a press conference held today also included reassurances that their work is proceeding quickly, that they are confident in having material for their interim report in November, and that they will be requesting an extension of their timeline and the funds to support the additional work.

“Commissioner Buller’s informational statements today were needed but I feel that an opportunity was missed in addressing the departure of senior staff, including Michele Moreau,” offered Interim President Francyne D. Joe.  “The announcement of an Interim Executive Director and other details about who will replace Director Moreau would demonstrate to families and communities that they have planned and prepared for any resignations and are capable of moving quickly to continue momentum.  It would tell us that there is someone overseeing this strategy and executing the schedule families are depending on.”

Although NWAC has been informed by the Inquiry that they have received training to ensure that all aspects of the Inquiry are performed in a trauma-informed manner, NWAC encourages its full application when addressing the public.  This includes a comfort level when speaking about the LGTBQ2S+ community, sensitivity to the needs of families in relation to the Inquiry’s expediency in holding Community Hearings of the Truth Gathering Process (Community Hearings), and mindfulness of the impact of body language and tone on messages being delivered.

In a letter being sent to National Inquiry leadership today, NWAC formally requests a list of the regional organizations informing the Community Relations team as they draft specific cultural protocols for each area in which Community Hearings are held.  As outlined in the second of two Report Cards under Terms of Reference numbers 3, 7, and 10, NWAC believes that publically listing the organizations hosting, welcoming, advising the Inquiry, and providing family supports is necessary in order to ensure transparency and give other groups the opportunity to make additional recommendations.

“We will keep asking for what we feel honours the Families First model, including important information like which legal and human resources supports are available to families as they register,” finished Joe.  “We’d also like to see the organizational elements stabilize so that the National Inquiry may maintain and build on its existing institutional knowledge.”

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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
lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Calls for Strong Indigenous Leadership as Executive Director Resigns from Inquiry into MMIWG

July 1 (Ottawa, ON) – As its Executive Director plans her withdrawal from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry), the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) maintains a vested interest in its success and continues to have numerous concerns as it reaches its tenth month of operation today. In a statement released via the National Inquiry last night, former Executive Director Michele Moreau’s departure for personal reasons was met with sadness by the National Inquiry.

Chantale Courcy, who had been functioning as Interim Executive Director before Moreau was hired, accepted a promotion within the Public Service Commission of Canada and officially resigned on June 12th, 2017. She was closely followed by staff member Tanya Kappo, whose association with the Inquiry had sent a positive message about the National Inquiry’s connection with grassroots movements and interest in hiring recognized Indigenous leaders.

“We want assurance that this setback will be dealt with quickly and that a First Nations, Inuit, or Métis woman or two-spirit person is appointed to the position of Executive Director. We need to see leadership that is already known to be strong within the Indigenous community,” stated NWAC Interim President Francyne D. Joe.

The fifth of such departures by staff since the National Inquiry’s launch on September 1st, 2016 is alarming but is not necessarily indicative of deeply problematic issues that can’t be remedied. “The Commissioners must come together to reassure the public that they remain committed to prioritizing the release of a solid timeline and fixing these operational issues once and for all,” commented Joe. As she has stated, a timeline must be released so that families of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) can start planning to tell their loved ones’ stories.

NWAC, who remains deeply invested in the success of the National Inquiry, has listed many of its concerns in its first two quarterly Report Cards, including a lack of transparency and communication from the Inquiry. In an update for families entitled “What’s next for the National Inquiry?”, dated June 19th, 2017, Chief Commissioner Marion Buller confirmed that the Commissioners would be asking for an extension.

Joe hopes to see a positive outcome despite many unsettling developments. “The Executive Director is the hub of operational functions. All of our concerns about adhering to the timeline before and after Community Hearings of the Truth Gathering Process were postponed for the summer are exasperated by the announcement of Moreau’s resignation. It is crucial that the National Inquiry regain operational stability as soon as possible in order to gain confidence from everyone who is invested in its success.”

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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
lgroulx@nwac.ca

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National Inquiry into MMIWG Met with National Indigenous Organizations This Week

June 16, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The national Indigenous organizations (NIOs) assembled in Ottawa yesterday to receive updates on progress and strategies from representatives of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry) including Chief Commissioner Marion Buller and Commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Marilyn Poitras, and Qajaq Robinson. Also in attendance were the Executive Director Michèle Moreau, Director of Communications Bernée Bolton and Director of Community Relations Waneek Horn-Miller.  Commissioner Michèle Audette and Lead Commission Counsel Susan Vella joined the Ottawa assembly via teleconference, Delilah Saunders attended on behalf of the Family Advisory Circle, and Grandmother and Elder Blu Waters provided opening and closing addresses. The meeting was co-chaired by Jean Teillet on behalf of the NIOs and Commissioner Marilyn Poitras on behalf of the National Inquiry.

The meeting was held in response to a joint letter from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), Pauktuutit and Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak (Women of the Métis Nation/WMN) expressing dissatisfaction with the degree of their involvement, disappointment with the lack of information received from the National Inquiry to date, and offering renewed support. Joined today by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the leadership of the NIOs sat down for the first face-to-face meeting between the NIOs and the National Inquiry since an informal meet and greet in February.

Some updates on work plans and the Inquiry’s communications strategy were shared.  Highlights of the discussions and shared commitments include:

  • The development of an agreed upon schedule of meetings and milestones, including face-to-face meetings of this group on a quarterly basis. One Commissioner will join biweekly teleconferences with the NIOs and more formalized frameworks such as Memoranda of Understanding the individual NIOs will be determined as required;
  • That work plans and schedules of community, institutional, and expert hearings would be shared well in advance; and
  • A shared commitment to work to include small, remote and isolated communities and hard to reach families and individuals through appropriate and relevant communication that is rooted in Indigenous culture and languages.The meeting concluded with an understanding and agreement that trust must be rebuilt between the National Inquiry and families and survivors, NIOs and other indigenous organizations and the general public.  NIOs in attendance expressed relief that the National Inquiry recognizes their value in this process and are poised to take action in embracing the expertise, experience, and outreach capabilities of their organizations. Barring the possibility of discussing all of the proposed agenda items in one afternoon, a commitment was made to meet again by teleconference in two weeks to conclude these discussions. The NIOs look forward to receiving information about the work plans, specific commitments as to the frequency of updates, and further meetings with the National Family Advisory Circle. The establishment of an Inuit Nunangat Advisory Committee will be prioritized and act as key advisors to the National Inquiry. A calendar of truth gathering hearings will be posted online and shared by other means as soon as possible in order to allow families and communities time to prepare.

“I look forward to strengthening relationships of trust and sharing with the organizations,” said Chief Commissioner Marion Buller.

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Robert Bertrand, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Francyne Joe, Interim President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada

Rebecca Kudloo, President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Melanie Omeniho, President of the Women of the Métis Nation

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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
lgroulx@nwac.ca

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PRESS RELEASE: NWAC Partners with ESDC to Develop an Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework

May 31, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) –In recognition of the continued impact of colonization on the way Indigenous children experience care and education, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is partnering with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to develop an Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework that will ensure culturally-appropriate child care that is reflective of the unique needs of First Nations and Métis children and families.

Many low-income Indigenous families are currently excluded from accessing high-quality child care services.  Without the availability of other affordable options, children are placed into care that mimics an institutionalized environment and supports a continued process of colonization and assimilation.

Children with disabilities are not properly supported, culturally-appropriate care is not available, and understaffed facilities create a lack of capacity.

The delivery of quality early learning techniques and child care is central to the healthy development and a strong determining factor of children’s future success.  In relationship to the stark contrast between the realities faced by Indigenous children and the necessary steps towards reconciliation, NWAC Interim President Francyne D. Joe offers the following:

“It is unacceptable that Indigenous children continue to receive poorer services than the non-Indigenous children of Canada.  Our culture recognizes the value of each individual and celebrates their gifts in a way that gives our children a strong sense of self-worth and belonging; their childhoods are incomplete without learning these values and practicing these traditions.   We look forward to working with Employment and Social Development Canada on co-developing an Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework that will create a place of learning that foster pride in our children and sets them on an early path to success.”

NWAC and ESDC have already begun grassroots engagement with Indigenous women to gain insight into positive change that can help shape the development of the Framework. Family members, communities, early childhood educators, and experts have been engaged through online surveys and roundtable sessions across the country.

Today, ESDC continues their online engagement process as it launches a new program aimed at hearing the stories and recommendations from Indigenous people across the country on early learning and child care. NWAC encourages Indigenous women who use early learning and child care programs to share their stories and ideas in English, French, or Indigenous languages until the session closes in July of 2017.

For more information or to participate in the online engagement session with the Government of Canada, visit the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care engagement process web page here.

To complete NWAC’s online engagement survey, click here.

To learn more about the engagement sessions and to learn more about the final report click here.

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NWAC Interim President Francyne D. Joe Introduces the 2nd Inquiry Into MMIWG Report Card

Dear Families, Communities, Stakeholders, and Commissioners,

On behalf of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, I would like to present our second Report Card assessing the success of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls in fulfilling its responsibilities over the past three months.

NWAC has a history of working with families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and creating networks of families through a series of projects such as Family Gatherings, Narrative and Digital Storytelling, Sisters In Spirit Vigils, and its premiere research.  We feel a deep responsibility to the families and communities who are at the heart of our work and remain dedicated to producing results and taking actions that we hope can begin to fulfill our duty to the Indigenous women and girls whose interests we represent.

In order to provide feedback that is strength-based, solution-focused, and productive, fairness must be our primary concern.  We have acknowledged our personal connections to this work and applied a critical eye to eliminating any emotional reactions from this document.  Our last Report Card, drafted with minimal information from the Inquiry, called for transparency, communication, and a process that is trauma-informed and culturally sensitive.  It is now our solemn task to identify the areas where this Inquiry has failed and once again appeal to have families come first and for NWAC to be meaningfully consulted in a process in which we are deeply invested.

We are not asking anyone, especially families, to be patient with this Inquiry as it progresses. We are asking that you remain strong and face adversity with the same determination that has made this Inquiry possible. In solidarity, we will not back down until this Inquiry is what we were promised.  To the families and communities, this is your Inquiry to shape and your opportunity to share your stories.  To the stakeholders, this is a chance for healing as a nation and a vital step in the process of decolonization and reconciliation.  To the Commissioners and staff of the Inquiry, the great challenge presented by this work is an impetus to incredible growth and possibility.

I urge you to find your voice in holding this Inquiry accountable and to continue to join us in advocating for a process that reflects our shared values, hopes, and dreams.  We need you to keep writing and signing letters to the Inquiry, holding your own community gatherings, and speaking to the media in order for your stories to be told and your positions to be known. It is my hope that our shared focus may result in an outcome that honours our MMIWG in the way that they deserve and contributes to a future free from violence for the Indigenous women and girls we love.

Sincerely,

Francyne Joe

Interim President, Native Women’s Association of Canada

Your concerns are important. Please email or call us at:

reception@nwac.ca

Telephone: 613.722.3033

Toll-Free: 1.800.461.4043

To make yourself available for contact by the media at your discretion, please contact:

Amy Ede

Director of Communications

Tel: 613-722-3033 ext. 100

Toll-Free: 1.800.461.4043 ext. 100

Email: aede@nwac.ca

Website: www.nwac.ca

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NWAC Stresses the Importance of Reporting Sexual Harassment & Assault During SAPM

May 12, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is observing Sexual Assault Prevention Month (SAPM) by voicing its support for the brave Indigenous women and girls who report sexual harassment and assault.  Despite the multiple barriers Indigenous women and girls face in reporting these incidents, there is increasing public awareness of the importance of documenting these occurrences and pursuing legal action against perpetrators.

NWAC is currently working at the policy level to empower Indigenous women to come forward by supporting legislation like Bill S-215, which would require a court to consider a woman’s race and gender to be an ‘aggravating factor’ when sentencing of violent offenders who have committed a crime of a sexual nature against an Indigenous woman.  NWAC’s Violence Prevention & Safety department also provides resources for women addressing domestic violence.

However, NWAC Interim President Francyne D. Joe stresses the importance of individual actions in compelling change. “The spectrum of what is considered sexual violence covers everything from harassment, which is a violation of human rights, to sexual assault, which is a criminal act.  It’s important to report harassing and inappropriate comments or actions so that individual cases may be dealt with and to provide accurate data which reflects how pervasive sexual harassment is.  This is a crucial step towards prevention.”

“It’s especially hard to come forward when you’re not sure what happened or are worried you might need to defend the choices you made to find yourself in a bad situation,” Joe offers in regards to reporting sexual assault to the police. “NWAC wants Indigenous women and girls to know that no one is responsible for their own sexual assault.  We’re continuing to make recommendations for positive changes to police intake operations that are culturally sensitive and eliminate processes that support victim-blaming.  The healing process between Indigenous communities and the police has just begun.”

NWAC encourages Indigenous women to know their rights through resources such as the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment and share this knowledge with their loved ones.  Women and girls who are experiencing or have experienced abuse are advised to seek help and support with those they trust and, if they feel safe doing so, to call the police.

“The launch of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the announcement of a $100 million investment in developing and implementing a Federal Strategy to Address Gender-based Violence reinforce NWAC’s message; Indigenous women are loved and valued,” Joe continues.  “We will no longer be forced to silently suffer the burdens of colonial structures put in place to rob us of our power.  We will stand up as a nation and as individuals to reclaim our rights.”

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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: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Announces Mother’s Day Awareness & Fundraising Campaign

April 24, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – In recognition of the special gifts our mothers share with their children and their communities, the Native Women’s Association of Canada invites individuals to celebrate a mother in their life with a Maxine Noel Not Forgotten scarf.  Launched on Friday, the “Make NWAC a Part of Your Family This Mother’s Day” campaign will showcase the scarf as a thoughtful, practical gift for mothers that will help them show their recognition of the strength, resiliency, and value of Indigenous women.

“As the national advocate for First Nations and Métis women, we are always increasing awareness of the ways that policy and legislation can be changed to improve the lives of Indigenous women living in Canada,” NWAC Interim Francyne D. Joe reflects.  “We do this work in recognition of the power women and girls have to support their communities, pass on their cultural beliefs and values, and shape the future.”

NWAC has been vending gifts featuring Noel’s work since the Dakota Sioux artist donated her Not Forgotten artwork in 2016.  “The world we all live and move in, is a place of great and terrible beauty, of wonder, and of tragedy,” says Noel of her series honouring the missing and murdered women of the Indigenous community.  “Our women are our heart and our spirit, always honoured, never forgotten”

“I wear the Not Forgotten scarf to many of my engagements and have found it a valuable tool in starting conversations about the terrifying numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as well as respectful ways of honouring their lives,” observes Joe.  “This Mother’s Day, we’re promoting the scarf as a gift that has meaning and is a part of growing social awareness.  It’s colourful, beautiful, and bright, just like our proud adoptive, biological, and step mothers.”

All proceeds from sales of the Not Forgotten scarves go towards NWAC’s work and may be purchased from the NWAC website.

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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: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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NWAC Celebrates International Women’s Day at the National Indigenous Women’s Summit

March 8, 2017 (Toronto, ON) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) Interim President Francyne D. Joe joined other Indigenous women leaders in thanking hosts and welcoming delegates to the fifth National Indigenous Women’s Summit (NIWS) on Monday, saying “It is essential to the success of reconciliation that Indigenous women determine and develop our own priorities in the areas of health, education, climate change, gender equality, and safety. ”

Taking place through Wednesday, March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD), NIWS brings together leaders from National Indigenous Organizations (NIOs), Chiefs, Elders, youth leaders, and regional representatives together to be inspired by keynote speakers and artists, network, and workshop solutions to the issues affecting Indigenous women.  NIWS 2017 is hosted by the Province of Ontario and carries the theme of Empowering Indigenous Women Now and In the Future.  The summit culminates today with presentations of the workshop recommendations and responses to those recommendations by federal, provincial, and territorial governments, followed by a press conference.

“This IWD, we celebrate the strength of Indigenous women, our contributions to our communities, and the acknowledgment of the wisdom, knowledge, and spirit that we have to share.  I am saddened that Indigenous women everywhere continue to live without equal rights by any standards, as well as those of the United Nations.  NWAC will continue to advocate for dignity, respect, and freedom from fear for First Nations and Metis women alongside the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to policy affecting Indigenous women,” Joe stated.

Joe concluded that “NIWS empowers us to explore how we as a collective can make a significant change.  Building off of last year’s recommendations, we are able to create our own strategies for implementing a gendered lens and population-specific applications to the findings put forth by the TRC and UNDRIP.”

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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: lgroulx@nwac.ca

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