Families in Nova Scotia who plan on participating in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will now have a specialized support team to help them through the process.
Three Indigenous community support specialists have been hired to support and inform families in the province about their loved one’s case and about the national inquiry’s process.
The announcement of the new positions was made during a news conference held in Indian Brook First Nation, N.S. Thursday.
“As we all can imagine, this will be an emotional and very challenging and a very difficult time for everyone who has lost a loved one and who will be reliving those circumstances, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said during the news conference.
“They’ll want to know where they can find help and how they can find emotional support in their community that is trauma-informed and culturally sensitive,” Fury said.
The positions are funded by the federal government and administered through a partnership between the Nova Scotia Department of Justice and the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association.
The three support workers will be part of the province’s family information liaison unit within the the justice department’s victim’s services.
The federal government has provided $790,000 to fund the program up until March 2019.
Halifax only city in Atlantic Canada to host public hearings
The federal government launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Sept. 2016 to examine and report on the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls.
The inquiry scheduled a series of public hearings to hear testimony from the families. The first public hearing was held in Whitehorse, Yukon in May.
Another nine public hearings are slated to take place across the country between Sept. 25 and Dec. 11. Halifax is the only city in Atlantic Canada chosen to hold a public hearing.
According the Native Women’s Association of Canada, or NWAC, there are 48 Indigenous women and girls in Atlantic Canada who have either been murdered or have been reported missing.
Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said families have been telling her organization they need culturally appropriate support before, during and after the inquiry holds a community hearing in Halifax in October.
“The support for family information, victim support, culturally appropriate support is long overdue,” Maloney said following the news conference.
“A lot of the complaints that you’re going to hear from families is not like, ‘my loved one was murdered or missing,’ but how the system, how they were treated, how they felt, how they were excluded from information,” Maloney explained.
“How they felt the police were then the enemy or justice was against them. Those issues need this type of support service,” she added.
“Families shouldn’t have to wait this long.” – Vanessa Brooks
Vanessa Brooks, sister of slain Mi’kmaw woman Tanya Brooks, said she wished this type of service was there for her and her family when they learned she was killed.
“This has been long overdue. Families shouldn’t have to wait this long,” Brooks said during the news conference.
“We should be able to have one person to be able to do the things we were not able to do,” she said.
Maloney said the families and survivors taking part in the inquiry will also need support beyond March 2019 when the program’s funding ends.
“It’s nice that it’s here for now but these are long term supports that I think Indigenous women and their families deserve,” Maloney said.
Meanwhile, Furey said his department will continue to discuss the possibility of further funding with the federal government and the Indigenous community.
“We’re focused now on the inquiry and providing the necessary support to ensure that women and families, mothers and sisters and extended family members in the community feel supported and informed throughout the inquiry,” Fury said.