Sisters in Spirit is no more.
The most established national group tracking murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada is out of money, and has been stripped of its name and research mandate by Ottawa.
A five-year funding arrangement ran out in March. And, though Ottawa has recently pledged $10 million to the cause of missing and murdered aboriginal women, it wants the focus to switch to action, from research.
“The Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council is concerned that we will miss out on the opportunity to continually learn from the deaths and disappearances of these aboriginal women, which makes our long-term prevention planning less effective,” says Amanda Mudry, youth representative with the council.
“The termination of the data collection phase of the project is a shame” she says, adding that the council would like to see the national Sisters in Spirit project continue to have the ability to add names to the database as they come out.
The Sisters and Spirit database has uncovered nearly 600 cases – more than any other federal or police agency.
In the territory, the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council began its own research project in September in conjunction with Sisters in Spirit, says Mudry.
The local group, which has discovered more than 10 cases of missing or murdered women that the national group missed, has secure funding. But it will no longer be able to tap the national group for support and advice.
Ottawa is now focussed on Evidence to Action, a new program under Status of Women Canada administered by the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Evidence to Action has been barred from using the Sister in Spirit name or logo, and can’t do any more research. It isn’t clear whether local groups will be allowed to add to Sisters in Spirit’s existing database.
The loss of the brand is a big one, says Mudry. But she’s confident the October 4 Sisters in Spirit vigils will still happen in Yukon and in many other communities across the country.
After three years of the United Nations requesting annual reports on what Canada is doing for missing and murdered aboriginal women, the Harper government finally announced its plans.
On October 29, the Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose announced a national strategy to create a new police-support centre for missing persons. As well, $1 million will go to community-based projects.
In making her announcement, Ambrose praised the work of Sisters in Spirit.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at