Ottawa offering $95M to help Indigenous families learn about missing loved ones
Ottawa is promising more than $95 million to help Indigenous families get information about missing or murdered loved ones.
On Monday, Justice Minister David Lametti announced $95.8 million in new funding over five years for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous people, and an additional $20.4 annually to keep support programs running.
“We are baking in the resources so that the resources themselves are not in question,” Lametti said.
“They will be there for as long as victims need them.”
The money comes from the 2023 federal budget and includes:
- $37.3 million over five years, and $7.75 million annually, to renew and expand Family Information Liaison Units
- $20.0 million over five years, and $4.15 million annually, to support families with Indigenous-led healing initiatives
- $38.6 million over five years, and $8.45 million annually, for a wide range of Indigenous-led activities for victims of crime and survivors of violence
Meggie Cywink, an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, called the announcement a good start but said that how the funding is distributed will matter.
“How the funds flow to grassroots organizations and families will be critical to its success,” Cywink said.
WATCH | Support for Indigenous victims of crime
Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, said more funding is needed to address the root causes of violence against Indigenous people.
“The funding is a major step in the right direction, but we all know that it’s not enough,” Anderson-Pyrz said.
“We will need a lot more funding to address the systemic and structural racism that perpetuates the violence that we experience.”
No more worries about sunset clauses
Funding for Family Information Liaison Units (FILUs) was set to expire this year.
The units help families get information about their missing or murdered loved ones from official channels — corrections staff, police, prosecutors, coroners, health and social services and child protection agencies.
They’re meant to complement the work of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Sen. Michèle Audette was a commissioner for that inquiry. She said she tested the effectiveness of FILUs when she became senator and found they work better in some regions than others.
In Quebec, Audette said, she couldn’t call to get any answers. She said she had to submit inquiries through a website and it took a while before she got a response.
“It’s important that we support that,” Audette said. “But in some places, it seems like it’s not working. Let’s see why it’s not working.”
The new money from the 2023 federal budget will be used to make the units permanent and offer services to the families of male victims.
“People tend to close their mind and say this is only about Indigenous women and girls and the LGBTQ community,” Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Monday.
“That is some willful blindness when we forget about the role that men play in perpetuating the violence in society.”
Men and boys who are abused are more prone to becoming abusers or going missing later in life, he said.
Aligning MMIWG policy with U.S.
Miller said Canada is trying to align its work on MMIWG with that of the U.S. He said he’s met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to discuss an issue that doesn’t respect borders.
“As we seek to align our positions and actually learn from each other and what we need to do to protect peoples that we have both mis-served for generations, I think it’s important that we do align some of the policy,” Miller said.
Washington State recently established a unit for reviewing cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people – something the national inquiry recommended.
Audette said the Call for Justice is “non-negotiable” and she is anxious to hear how the government will respond.
“People need to know what happened to their loved one when they went through the system,” Audette said.
Leah Gazan, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, said she wants the government to be more accountable and get the money out the door.
The government has spent only a fraction of the $724.1 million earmarked in 2021 to fight gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls.
“They’re not investing adequately,” she said.
“The federal government has a habit of making these big announcements and then not spending the money.”
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