Violence & Indigenous women in Canada: Support available for family members reading inquiry’s final report

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As the loved ones of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls begin to absorb the 1,200 page final report from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, a department of justice support network is sending a reminder to take it one step at a time. (CBC Indigenous)
Aftercare should not be an afterthought.

That’s the message a network of support workers from across the country is sending as the loved ones of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls begin to absorb the final report of the national inquiry, released officially on Monday at a ceremony in Gatineau, Que.

“[The report] opens up all the wounds again … all of us need to take care of each other,” said Marie Sack, a Mi’kmaw community outreach specialist from Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, who attended the ceremony Monday.

Sack is part of Nova Scotia’s Family Information Liaison Unit (FILU), a group of specialists that serve as a bridge between the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and provincial governments. She said the closing ceremony was an emotional reminder of what the families have been through, and what’s still to come.

“It’s going to take [families] months to read even one section of this report, and that could be very painful, opening up their old wounds,” Sack said.

She said that not knowing what will come from the report’s release and how the country will respond its calls for justice can also worsen anxiety for those that testified.

“There’s still people wondering what’s actually going to happen. They gave their truth, and that was hard. Now what will the government do with it?”

From left, Chief commissioner Marion Buller and commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Qajaq Robinson and Michele Audette prepare the final report to give to the government at the closing ceremony in Gatineau, Que., on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Sack said she’ll be recommending that families read the report “one step at a time,” section by section, and to seek any mental and emotional wellness supports available in their region.

“It’s worth the read,” she said.

“There are a lot of difficult things in it, but there’s also a lot of good in it.”

Support resources available

For immediate mental and emotional wellness support, the MMIWG National Inquiry’s toll-free support phone line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-844-413-6649. The service is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.

Mental health counselling and community-based cultural support services have been made available through the inquiry process through Indigenous Services Canada, and are still available. Local Indigenous organizations co-ordinate the service of Elders, traditional healers and community-based support workers.

For information on how to access these services:

  • Atlantic: 1-866-414-8111
  • Quebec: 1-877-583-2965
  • Ontario: 1-888-301-6426
  • Manitoba: 1-866-818-3505
  • Saskatchewan: 1-866-250-1529
  • Alberta: 1-888-495-6588
  • Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon: 1-866-509-1769
  • British Columbia: 1-877-477-0775

First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line provides culturally-grounded assessment, referrals, support in times of crisis and suicide intervention. Services available 24/7, in English, French, Ojibway, Cree and Inuktitut at 1-855-242-3310.

Talk 4 Healing is a helpline that provides culturally sensitive counselling, advice and support to Indigenous women across Ontario. Services are available 24/7, in English, French, Ojibway, Oji-Cree, Cree and 10 other Indigenous languages at 1-855-554-4325.

Trans-Lifeline provides support, information and resources to transgender or questioning people, as well as to their families and friends, 24/7, in English, at 1-877-330-6366.

Kid’s Help Phone provides anonymous and non-judgmental support to youth and teens and can reached 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868.

Family Information Liaison Units (FILU) help families access available information about their missing and murdered loved ones from multiple government sources. Contact information for FILUs in every province and territory can be found on the Justice Canada website.

FILUs are not part of the national inquiry for MMIWG, but were established by the Canada’s Department of Justice in 2016 to provide community-based, culturally sensitive and trauma-informed support to the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

There are FILU co-ordinators working in justice departments in every region, gathering and sharing information on court cases and investigations into missing and murdered women and girls, child welfare, health and social services.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit-specific mental health services among recommendations in Canadian report on violence against Indigenous women, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Swedish-speaking Finnish women launch their own #metoo campaign, Yle News

Sweden: Report sheds light on Swedish minority’s historic mistreatment, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska reckons with missing data on murdered Indigenous women, Alaska Public Media

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