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Yukon leaders release strategy on MMIWG2S+

Thirty-one action items call for an end to violence and increased social and economic support
Yukon leaders attend a sacred fire ceremony before the signing of the strategy on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-spirit+ people at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on Dec. 10. (Government of Yukon)

Forty-five Yukon leaders have signed a strategy on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-spirit+ people (MMIWG2S+) and committed to the strategy’s 31 action items.

“This really is an achievement; I know how it feels sometimes as a leader seeing the complex issues your community and your nation is facing,” said Doris Bill, Chief of Kwanlin Dün First Nation.

“When it feels overwhelming, use this strategy as your guide. We all want Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit+ people to feel safety, respect, dignity and justice.”

The Yukon Advisory Committee on MMIWG2S+ released the strategy on Dec. 10. The committee formed in 2015 and is co-chaired by Bill, Jeanie McLean, minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, and Ann Maje Raider, Executive Director of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society.

The strategy, Changing the Story to Upholding Dignity and Justice, is the Yukon’s response to the federal inquiry into MMIWG. The Yukon is the first jurisdiction to release a localized action plan.

Its goals are to end violence and increase the economic independence of Indigenous people, increase public awareness and implement violence intervention responses across the Yukon.

McLean said she hopes this strategy will serve as an example to the rest of Canada, as the committee begins planning implementation over the next 10 to 15 years.

The 13-member committee reviewed the federal inquiry’s 231 calls for justice, narrowing those priorities into four pathways and 31 action items. The committee spent the last year consulting with families, all 14 Yukon First Nation governments, the Council of Yukon First Nations and municipal governments.

“We have worked together through really tough discussions and, I can guarantee, a lot of disagreements, but our passion moved us forward,” McLean said.

The 15-page strategy will act as a guiding document for leaders to implement in their respective governments and agencies. The strategy’s release was honoured with a sacred fire and signing ceremony. Forty-five First Nations chiefs, municipal mayors, territorial ministers, federal ministers and others pledged commitment.

McLean and Bill spoke of the “whole-Yukon approach” the strategy requires to succeed.

“There is much work ahead; alone the burden would feel heavy, but if we each carry some, the load is manageable,” Bill said.

The advisory committee identified four pathways that enforce colonialism and lead to violence. They are intergenerational trauma; maintaining the status quo; social and economic marginalization; and ignoring the expertise of Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ people.

The committee then mapped four corresponding paths to justice, with each of the four paths connecting to several action items.

The first path is “Strengthening Connections and Supports” and seeks to address new and historic trauma affecting Indigenous people.

It calls for community-based mental wellness support for victims of violence, more support for Indigenous families and ongoing involvement with the families of victims and survivors.

The committee also calls for the implementation of the Putting People First report, a comprehensive review of the territory’s health and social services released last spring.

It suggests that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) should be explored in the context of Yukon’s Final Agreements.

The second path, “Community Safety and Justice,” will fight systemic injustices and the status quo.

Implementing community safety is an aspect of this path that Bill and McLean said is of high priority.

“The families, and other Yukoners, have looked to Kwanlin Dün and seen what we’ve done in terms of community safety and bringing down our crime statistics,” Bill said.

This path calls on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to improve culturally-appropriate services and RCMP to provide an update on the recommendations outlined for them in a police review conducted in 2010.

It also calls for restorative justice in communities and sexualized assault supports. The path asks for safe and affordable transportation and communication between Yukon communities.

The third path, “Economic Independence and Education,” combats the economic marginalization that can lead to violence.

It calls for training programs, career counselling and post-secondary education funding. This path also calls for the elimination of violence related to development projects and improved safety in all workplaces.

Safe housing is another aspect of this path and includes the provision of food, clothing and other essentials.

The fourth path is “Community Action and Accountability” and will lend a voice to the agency and expertise of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit+ people.

It calls on more public education on violence prevention and healthy masculinity, including to public servants and service providers.

The path calls on media outlets to improve reporting on violence and eliminate harmful stereotypes from news stories. It also asks for a trust fund to be established, for survivors and families of MMIWG2S+.

McLean said she knows the list seems daunting, but feels its manageable.

“I don’t feel any of them are unrealistic,” McLean said.

“There’s a place for everyone in this strategy.”

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at