Yukon to host roundtable on missing, murdered indigenous women

The Yukon government is planning a regional roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, to take place in February 2016.

The Yukon government is planning a regional roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, to take place in February 2016.

The roundtable will allow territorial and First Nation governments, the RCMP and other Yukon organizations to discuss existing measures and future plans to improve the safety of indigenous women.

It will be co-chaired by Elaine Taylor, the minister responsible for the women’s directorate, Kwanlin Dun First Nation Chief Doris Bill and the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council president Doris Anderson.

“As First Nations people, we have been through so much and remain resilient,” Anderson said at a public announcement on Wednesday morning. “This advisory committee is proof that our voices are being heard. It gives me hope that these missing and murdered indigenous women and girls will not be forgotten.”

A 2014 RCMP report found there were 1,184 reported cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada between 1980 and 2012. There are 39 known cases in the Yukon.

“As a mother, I know it would tear me apart if something happened to my daughter and my pleas went unsupported and unanswered,” Bill said. “The families deserve answers. They deserve concrete solutions.”

Bill stressed that the territory’s action will be “limited” if the federal government does not get on board, but said the outcome of the recent federal election gives her hope.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has said the Liberal Party will launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

“I am encouraged by what I’m hearing from our prime minister-designate. One can only be optimistic that some answers and solutions may now be forthcoming,” Bill said.

The regional roundtable was a recommendation from a national roundtable held in February 2015. A second national roundtable is to be held in 2016, and recommendations from the regional event will be discussed then.

Bill said the Kwanlin Dun First Nation has already taken a number of steps to improve safety, including removing more than 20,000 tonnes of garbage from the community and clearing trails to improve visibility. The First Nation has also added lighting to some buildings, and is looking to add cameras.

“There are a lot of things that can be done at a community level that many communities are not doing,” she said.

Krista Reid, president of the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, mentioned that a number of women’s groups and the Whitehorse RCMP signed a new Together for Safety protocol in May.

The protocol is designed to improve services for women who have experienced violence.

The Yukon government is also planning a gathering for the families of Yukon’s missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, scheduled for Dec. 12. The gathering will give families a chance to share their stories and to make recommendations for improving safety. Observers will not be allowed to attend, but elders and counsellors will be present. Those wishing to attend should contact Katie Johnson at 867-332-5283.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com