As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, February 19, 2016
by Elaine Taylor, Minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate
Last week I had the privilege of co-chairing an event that was profound, moving, and of the utmost importance to the future of Indigenous women and girls in Yukon, and across Canada.
The Yukon Regional Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was held on Friday at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. With me as co-chairs were Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill and Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council president Doris Anderson. We were also joined by Premier Pasloski, Minister of Justice Brad Cathers, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and many others.
The purpose of the forum was to bring together government leaders, agencies, communities and families to discuss and develop shared objectives on how we can work collaboratively to address this prevalent issue in our territory and our nation.
A guiding principle of the Yukon Regional Roundtable was to meaningfully integrate the voices of the families of Yukon’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, who met on December 12 at a family gathering.
It was also an opportunity for government leaders, the RCMP and other key organizations to hear directly from more than 70 family members who shared their stories about grieving, the lack of adequate support, and the isolation they’ve experienced.
The day was marked by informative yet difficult discussions, and the stories we heard had a profound effect on each and every one of us.
The roundtable was a forum to connect, reflect on what is being done, discuss what is working and identify priority areas for further collaborative action in preparation for the second National Roundtable later this month, and for the upcoming National Inquiry.
We have committed to moving forward on this issue, and together signed a declaration to advance our collective work to address violence against Indigenous women and girls. We also made a commitment to hold another family gathering to keep the conversation going and ensure that Yukon families continue to be heard.
Planning for the Yukon roundtable has been underway since last February, when Premier Darrell Pasloski, Chief Bill, Teslin Tlingit Council Chief Carl Sidney and other representatives attended the first National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Ottawa.
Holding a family gathering and a Yukon roundtable were two of the recommendations that came from that meeting. The Yukon delegation also supported the call by national Aboriginal leaders to hold a national inquiry into the issue.
The Government of Yukon has been actively working on this issue for several years, both nationally and here at home. We’ve held two regional summits and participated in four National Aboriginal Women’s Summits. We also continue to ensure that initiatives are designed and delivered by Aboriginal women who are committed to reducing the disproportionate levels of violence.
Since 2004 the Yukon government has provided $1.9 million to the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund. We have contributed $900,000 to implement the recommendations of both Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Summits. And we have also provided $682,000 to Yukon Aboriginal women’s organizations through the Women’s Equality Fund since its inception in 2007.
All Yukoners have a role in finding a solution to the crisis of violence in our communities. This is an issue that affects us all, and therefore requires a collective response.
On behalf of the Government of Yukon, I reaffirm our commitment to preventing and addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls.
I would also like to acknowledge the incredible strength and resilience of the family members who shared their stories at the roundtable. My deepest gratitude goes out to them, and to all Yukoners who are working together towards a future where all members of our communities can live without fear of violence.