Working group to examine ways of reducing violence against Indigenous women, girls

A new working group of Indigenous leaders and MLAs will make recommendations to the Alberta government on what actions to take to reduce violence against Indigenous women and children.

The group is made up of Indigenous leaders Lisa Higgerty, Rachelle Venne and Josie Nepinak and government MLAs Martin Long, Whitney Issik and Tracy Allard.

The 231 calls for justice made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which published its final report last year, will be a starting point, Nepinak said Thursday.

The goal is to find concrete actions that can make a difference, she said. 

“What are we going to do about it and to respond in a systematic way,” Nepinak said. “There will certainly be a number of systems that will be involved in creating those solutions.

“It’ll be a much bigger and broader voice of systems and Albertans who have been affected.”

Alberta has the second highest rate of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, said Nepinak.

“This is a very huge issue for families,” she said. “All Albertans should be affected; this is Alberta’s concern.”

The working group has a one-year mandate that could be extended if required, said Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson.

“I don’t expect to solve this thing overnight. I expect this panel to be working for quite some time,” Wilson said. 

“We want to move forward and not just have empty words, but to have real action things that we can take to the public.”

The group’s recommendations could also apply to the private sector, such as companies that extract resources in northern Alberta, he said.

“There could be a camp of 2,000 men and two or three women working there. It’s a very dangerous situation,” said Wilson. 

“We want to make sure that we address that in the report that we’re doing as well, so that women are protected in very vulnerable situations like that.”

Richard Feehan, the NDP Opposition critic for Indigenous relations, said he was glad that the working group was formed. 

He questioned the United Conservative Party government’s ability to respond to the recommendations made by the working group, considering recent cuts to social services.

“A number of the programs that used to exist for Indigenous people in this province have suddenly started to be lost,” he said. 

“That tells us that they’re not listening to the research or to the voices of the people in the community.”

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