National Day of Remembrance Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirited Peoples

Written by: Rachel Olson, Sandra Gosling, and Sabrina Fields

Artwork by Coral Shaughnessy-Moon Musgumagw of Dzawada’enuxw First Nation
Artwork by Coral Shaughnessy-Moon Musgumagw of Dzawada’enuxw First Nation

“‘I wanted to put numbers to this because no one believed us,’ she recalled. ‘But we didn’t have the resources, I did my own research and presented it but they said: ‘Well, how do you know that it’s true?’
At that point we said there were about 500 missing and murdered aboriginal women.’”
Terri Brown, 2016 
Former Chief of Tahltan First Nation
Former President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada
Founder of the Sisters In Spirit Campaign
Sister to the late Ada Elaine Brown

Today we, at The Firelight Group, take a moment of pause to honour and remember the Indigenous peoples lives who have been lost due to ongoing colonialism and systemic racism. As there continues to be no federal action plan, we at Firelight have taken the time to review and reflect upon the Nation Inquiry’s Calls to Justice, internally and externally. This post outlines some of the ways in which our organization has implemented some of the Calls to Justice and principles, and what we see as our path forward to a safer shared future for all of us. 

As part of our efforts to ensure clients values and priorities are understood, acknowledged, and included in decision-making, we often refer to the National Inquiry Calls to Justice, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ Calls to Action, and UNDRIP. We press for the implementation of the Calls to Justice on behalf of clients in various legislative and regulatory environments. We do not take a pan-Indigenous approach. Instead we lift up the distinct voices of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit, and we push for culturally responsive support and programs. 

There are many Calls to Action for every Canadian to focus on. Specifically, we have called attention to those that are related to the extractive industries.

Extractive and Development Industries 

13.1       We call upon all resource-extraction and development industries to consider the safety and security of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, as well as their equitable benefit from development, at all stages of project planning, assessment, implementation, management, and monitoring.

13.2       We call upon all governments and bodies mandated to evaluate, approve, and/or monitor development projects to complete gender-based socio-economic impact assessments on all proposed projects as part of their decision making and ongoing monitoring of projects. Project proposals must include provisions and plans to mitigate risks and impacts identified in the impact assessments prior to being approved.

13.3       We call upon all parties involved in the negotiations of impact-benefit agreements related to resource-extraction and development projects to include provisions that address the impacts of projects on the safety and security of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Provisions must also be included to ensure that Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA people equitably benefit from the projects.

13.4       We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to fund further inquiries and studies in order to better understand the relationship between resource extraction and other development projects and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. At a minimum, we support the call of Indigenous women and leaders for a public inquiry into the sexual violence and racism at hydroelectric projects in northern Manitoba. 

13.5       We call upon resource-extraction and development industries and all governments and service providers to anticipate and recognize increased demand on social infrastructure because of development projects and resource extraction, and for mitigation measures to be identified as part of the planning and approval process. Social infrastructure must be expanded and service capacity built to meet the anticipated needs of the host communities in advance of the start of projects. This includes but is not limited to ensuring that policing, social services, and health services are adequately staffed and resourced.

All of the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls can be found here.

Part of our shared vision with our clients is to wrap the arms of culture around the vulnerable people in communities. We continue to learn from our clients in the process, learning how to decolonize, conduct work that is trauma-informed, and centre ceremony in much of our work. We celebrate the work communities are doing to combat colonial violence, often with limited resources. We seek opportunities to strengthen local resources so that such communities can continue leading important work. 

Here is a list of just a few of the great Indigenous leaders and organizations we have had the pleasure of working with and learning from, and a highlight of their great work to end violence and build community safety – namely to wrap the arms of their culture around the vulnerable.

Lake Babine Nation:

  • Co-author of “Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps: Promoting Healthy Communities in Centres of Industrial Change”

  • Organizer of an Inter-Agency that brings together representatives from local communities, governments, agencies, and industrial companies to prevent and respond to issues that arise within Northern BC during pipeline construction.

  • Team Gooze – a three person Community Preparedness and Emergency Response Team that responds to family needs in communities in response to the pressures of the extractive sector.

Native Counselling Services of Alberta:

  • NCSA provides a variety of programs and services designed and delivered for Indigenous people, by Indigenous people in Alberta, in an effort to promote the resilience of Indigenous individuals and families.

  • Their Courtwork Program provides much needed services to any Indigenous person in the courts.

Ending Violence Association of BC:  

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada: 

Sovereign Bodies Institute:

  • Builds on Indigenous traditions of gathering knowledge to put research into action on gender-based violence against Indigenous peoples

Northern Birthwork Collective:

  • “The Northern Birthwork Collective’s mission is to create culturally safe and gender inclusive spaces, programming and services for our community as it relates to reproductive health, pregnancy, birth, postpartum and the parenting journey.”

Native Women’s Association of Canada:  

First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba: 

Assembly of First Nations:

Moose Hide Campaign: 

  • A grassroots campaign of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys standing up to violence against Indigenous women and children

Southern Chiefs’ Organization Inc. Manitoba: