The federal government has announced an official inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women of this nation, but what does that mean for Central Albertans?
Local officials said it will mean many things – investigation, consultation, education and reconciliation. It will also mean a great deal of emotional turmoil for those affected by these missing and murdered women, officials added.
“What I’ve heard so far is that the people who are hungry for justice are really glad for this announcement about the inquiry. I’ve also talked to people who are directly affected by missing and murdered women, and they’re saying, ‘Oh God, what is this going to mean?’” said Theresa ‘Corky’ Larsen Jonasson, a local community elder.
“For Red Deer as a community, we are really going to have to work together. We are going to have to offer a lot of support, because the inquiry will bring up a lot of deep-rooted emotion.”
This investigation encompasses many aspects of Canadian life – an exploration of historical events, the implications of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, inclusive and welcoming communities and the change needed in attitudes to prevent more of these missing and murdered women, local officials said.
“My heart breaks for not only First Nations and Metis women, who are vastly more susceptible, but for all women. It’s not just First Nations women who are experiencing this violence,” Larsen Jonasson said.
The inquiry itself is part of a larger commitment by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government to a renewed relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. Premier Rachel Notley released a statement following the announcement of the inquiry earlier this month. “From the outset, our government has signaled its intention to be a better partner and neighbour with Alberta’s Indigenous communities, based on respect, understanding and collaboration.”
Sheila Bannerman, a member of Red Feather Women and other community initiatives, said there is a lot of work to do and it must be done one step at a time.
“If something is happening everywhere, then something big will change. If the change is only in one community, or one commission or local government, then nothing will change. There has to be support.
“How you tackle an epidemic is the way you tackle anything – one step at a time. You do what you can do, in this hour or this day, and you never say that’s not enough. And then you keep on doing it. If you look at something so big, you look at it and say, ‘There’s nothing we can do’. But you can’t look at it that way anymore, and we are seeing that.”
Through January, the Red Deer Express will publish a series involving several community groups and how this inquiry affects them moving forward. The interviews will be conducted with local elders, community supports and City staff to examine what the inquiry means for Red Deer as a whole.