Ontario opens support centres for families of murdered and missing indigenous women

April 18, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

Indigenous activist Maggie Cywink, who has campaigned tirelessly to call attention to murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, including her own sister Sonya, will act as Ontario's special advisor between the province and the families as the historic national inquiry begins.

Cywink, from Whitefish River First Nation on Manitoulin Island, has spent the last several months trying to find and contact as many Ontario families as she can, to let them know she is the bridge between them and the province and all its departments and agencies, as the national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls gets set to start on May 29 in Whitehorse, Yukon.

"This is a passion. It is not just a job for me. I want to keep the needs of the families in the forefront of my mind. They must walk ahead of me and I must follow their lead," Cywink said in an interview. 

As the national inquiry struggles to overcome logistical issues and ensures it has proper counseling and health supports in place before the hearings begin, Ontario says it is ready to go.

Ontario has set up and opened its family information liaison unit (FILU) office, which intends to provide families and survivors with support. The unit will also act as a bridge to government agencies including the police, child welfare, and the provincial coroner. The FILU is headquartered in Toronto but there are three field offices — one each at Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury, Anishnawbe Mushkiki in Thunder Bay and Equay-wuk (Women's Group) in Sioux Lookout, according to the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General.

The units were promised by the federal Department of Justice as part of the MMIW inquiry process and $16.7 million was set aside so they could be created across the country.

But, so far, many of the provinces and territories are still in the process of creating the units and $9 million in funds over three years has been approved to support the FILUs, said Ian McLeod, a spokesperson for the federal Department of Justice.

Read more: Ontario opens support centres for families of murdered and missing indigenous women