Maryam Monsef, Canada’s minister of status of women, listens as Jeanie Dendys, Yukon minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, speaks about a funding announcement for Indigenous women’s organizations while in Whitehorse on Oct. 16. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Joint funding announced for Indigenous women’s groups

Groups will be getting a total of $1.6 million in federal and territorial funding over three years

Three Indigenous women’s organizations in the Yukon have received a total of $1.6 million in funding through a joint investment on behalf of the federal and territorial governments.

On Oct. 16, Maryam Monsef, Canada’s minister of status of women, made the announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

Monsef was joined by Jeanie Dendys, Yukon’s minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, and representatives of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, and the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council.

They sat at a table near Walking with Our Sisters — an art installation comprised of dozens of moccasin vamps, hand-beaded to commemorate the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Dendys told the audience that the rates of violence against women are three times higher in the Yukon than the national average. For Indigenous women, she said, it’s an additional three times higher than that.

“That’s a statistic we want to change,” she said. “We want to be able to have a different story for Yukon and for the North because that’s true for the other territories as well.”

Over the next three years, Monsef said the federal government will contribute $867,500 to the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, and the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council. This more than matches the $759,000 in operational funding that the Yukon government will provide over the next three years.

Monsef said the funding is flexible, but is intended to support activities related to development and implementation of strategic planning processes, skills development within the three organizations, enhanced human resources, and capacity-building.

Ann Maje Raider, executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, said the money will go towards getting benefits in place for staffers. It will allow the society to follow through on various projects it has undertaken, but been unable to see through to completion and action.

It will also fund training. Raider said the society has capacity issues, and needs to bring someone in to train a new generation.

“We’re not going to be there forever, right?” she said. “We need young people to come in. We need young people to learn about the organization.”

She said this is the only way to build and strengthen organizations.

Monsef said the funding decision came out of questioning how government might ensure the sustainability of women’s organizations, which have worked for decades with very few dollars.

“It takes courage to acknowledge the struggle that women have experienced,” said Monsef.

“It takes courage to recognize the work that needs to be done and it takes courage to collaborate to find common solutions.”

Maje Raider has been with the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society for 18 years.

“This is 2018 and we’re facing a national epidemic of violence against Indigenous women, which is a crime. We are the most marginalized in Canada … the biggest problem we have is poverty among our women and it’s reflected in our Indigenous women’s organizations.”

“We all struggle with funding to make ends meet. We do a lot of work. We work in the trenches. We do our best … but the struggle has been not having the ability to have those projects sustained.”

She said Indigenous women’s organizations have made progress, but that on a national level, progress has been very slow.

This weeks’ funding announcement follows the recent announcement by the Government of Canada, of its Capacity-Building Fund. This fund, which will offer $100 million over five years, gives grants to women’s organizations and Indigenous organizations that serve women.

It too is intended to increase capacity, including skills development and community engagement.

Monsef was in Whitehorse as part of a week’s worth of meetings between the federal, provincial, territorial ministers responsible for the status of women.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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