By Shari Narine
Journalist Local Journalism Initiative
After months of delays, the Government of Alberta now has the final report and recommendations of the Joint Alberta Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The report will brief the province on how to advance the 231 calls for justice emerging from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
However, it will take longer before Alberta takes action to implement the task force recommendations.
In a press release on Jan. 5, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said the government would take “the time necessary to consider its recommendations and determine next steps.”
Although Wilson did not set a deadline with the comment, her press secretary Adrienne South responded in an email interview with Windspeaker.com saying that “the Government of Alberta will have a response to the report and to its recommendations this spring “.
She did not say whether this spring date meant action on the recommendations would be underway.
The Government of Alberta established the seven-member joint task force in March 2020. In January 2021, Wilson announced that the task force had requested an extension, but was awaiting its report by June 3, 2021. marking the second anniversary of the MMIWG national survey. report.
As the province adopts the recommendations, it will approach the third anniversary of the national inquiry report.
“This is not acceptable,” said Stephanie Harpe, a member of the Fort McKay First Nation, who resides in Edmonton.
“You can’t go and get what you need from traumatized people and then leave them traumatized for that time. The 231 appeals (for justice) is our north star. It’s just, who’s following this star enough to show some action? We want to see something solid. We want to hold on to something real. And we don’t have that.
Harp’s mother, Ruby Anne McDonald, was murdered in 1999 in Edmonton. So far, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) has not charged anyone.
Harp shared his story and experience during the MMIWG National Inquiry in Edmonton in November 2017.
Paul Tuccaro, a member of the Mikisew Cree Nation, also shared his story with the National Inquiry in Edmonton. Her 20-year-old sister Amber Tuccaro was last seen in August 2010 in Nisku, Alta. His body was found two years later in a nearby field. No charges have been laid by the RCMP for his murder.
As far as Tuccaro is concerned, the province’s inaction is in keeping with his family’s experience in trying to obtain justice for his sister.
“It’s very frustrating,” he says. “If we were to sit at home and depend on (the government and the RCMP), we would still be sitting at home waiting for answers that we will never get.”
Tuccaro says the province was forced to take action due to the public scrutiny.
Neither Wilson nor South have said whether the full report will be made public.
“Maybe there is some information in there that will hold them to account. If so, maybe they are the ones saying, “We have it and we will only broadcast what we want to broadcast. We will not publish the report as it is now. I don’t think that makes anyone happy, ”Tuccaro said.
Neither Tuccaro nor Harpe waited for the task force’s recommendations.
Tuccaro developed a program on MMIWG, using his sister’s story. When completed, he wants to make it available to Indigenous and non-Indigenous schools through Alberta Distance Learning.
He is also developing a website and “forming a group” that will advocate and guide other families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls through the process.
As for Harp, she and Kari Thomason, another grassroots activist, organized MMIWG rallies across the province. Harp says she also received 2 a.m. phone calls from families of missing and murdered women.
“We just need some action. We’re tired of talking, talking, talking, talking. We just need action, but we grassroots defenders?
(we) do the job. We haven’t stopped. We did not delay.
We just want to get more support for grassroots defenders who impact the action, ”she said.
Harp hopes support for grassroots defenders is quantified with a dollar figure recommended in the report.
As the province continues to study the report and recommendations, Harpe and Tuccaro want Indigenous family members to lead the way.
“The processing (the government is doing it) is so colonial that they have to come down to more traditional practices, and to move forward they just need to have more Elders to guide them in the way. which they do action and process and how they relate to families and how they relate to people. It must be decolonized, ”said Harpe.
The task force consisted of four Indigenous women_Lisa Higgerty, Josie Nepinak, Rachelle Venne and Suzanne Life-Yeomans_ as well as MPs with large Indigenous populations in their ridings.
South said Wilson would meet with members of the group in the coming weeks to “review the report further.”
On funding, South said analysis for the report will include “examining what can be done with existing government resources and what may require additional funding.”
She did not specify where this additional funding would come from or when it would be made available.
“The completion of this report marks an important milestone in our work to build a safer province for Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA + people,” South said.
As far as Harp is concerned, however, the completion of the report means little.
“We don’t know how to feel at this point? We are always in check.
So where do we go from here? How are we supposed to feel? We are so confused on things. I hope they have the right people at the table. I just hope they decolonize their process. This is what I want, ”she said.
Shari Narine is a reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative who works for Windspeaker.Com. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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