Minister of State for the Status of Women Helena Guergis has made several announcements over the last ten days with respect to small funding grants to various groups across Canada, particularly those encouraging and coordinating educational projects for women entrepreneurs fitting with SWC’s theme Strong Women, Strong Canada. There has been no announcement about funding for the Sisters in Spirit initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. From the Winnipeg Free Press :
“We haven’t heard anything,” said Sisters in Spirit director Kate Rexe. “The government is silent on the issue.”
With a grant of $5 million, Sisters in Spirit spent the last five years compiling a database of more than 520 women who have disappeared or been killed over the last 40 years. The group prepared tool kits for families and police to use when a woman goes missing and developed policies and programs to help stop the cycle of violence.
Rexe said the Sisters group is prepared to begin implementing policies and community programs aimed at three specific areas — the justice system, child welfare and poverty. But that’s been on hold for months because Ottawa won’t say if it plans to keep funding the work.
“It’s unbelievably frustrating,” Rexe said. “We have all the knowledge, the momentum. We can actually start to implement change, but we don’t even know if we can keep planning.”
A year ago, Status of Women Minister Helena Guergis said she was working on extending the project. “I want you to know, I’ve already engaged in the process of what Sisters in Spirit Two would look like,” Guergis said at the Status of Women committee meeting Feb. 12, 2009.
But a spokeswoman for Guergis would not say Friday whether funding for Sisters in Spirit is forthcoming, and said in an email Ottawa has asked NWAC to share its database with police.
Please support Canadian First Nations sisters in spirit and write, phone or fax Helena Guergis, the PM, opposition critics, opposition leaders and your MP demanding full funding for this critical initiative. First Nations women must be the leaders in resolving the national shame of missing and murdered Aboriginal women – they are our experts. The RCMP and provincial and local police have miserable track records with respect to these tragedies and must work in partnership with women to create effective strategies for their resolution.
House of Commons
Minister for Status of Women
733 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Fax: 613 992-2164
Suzanne L. Clément
Anita Neville (Lib MP, Winnipeg South Central & party critic on SWC)
Irene Mathyssen (NDP MP, London-Fanshawe & party critic on SWC)
Libby Davies (NDP MP Vancouver East)
Olivia Chow (NDP MP Trinity-Spadina)
Nicole Demers (Bloc Québécois MP Laval & party critic on SWC)