Sisters in Spirit hopes for rebirth

By Mia Rabson, Winnipeg Free Press

OTTAWA — The national research project that brought the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada to the forefront quietly ended Wednesday when its five-year mandate from the federal government ran out.

Organizers are still hopeful the Sisters in Spirit initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada will be reborn. However, for the time being the group’s focus has shifted to searching for other partners.

“Today is the end of funding,” said Sisters in Spirit director Kate Rexe.

SIS was created in 2005 with a five-year, $5-million commitment from the federal government to address violence against aboriginal women, including increasing public awareness.

SIS researchers have compiled a database of more than 520 aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing in Canada since 1970, more than half of them since 2000.

Rexe hopes the next phase of the project will be able to address crime prevention and victimization of aboriginal women with particular community-level programs. She has had some good meetings with federal officials, including from the Status of Women office, but there is no funding commitment yet.

“There’s been a lot of pressure alleviated,” she said. “After the budget government departments were allowed to start talking.”

Ottawa did commit $10 million to the issue in the recent budget but there has been no suggestion yet where that money will be spent.

Rexe said the Status of Women office, which originally funded the research project, no longer has a mandate to fund research and that has made the negotiations tricky.

Liberal Status of Women critic Anita Neville said the government’s argument Status of Women doesn’t fund research anymore is ridiculous.

“It’s consistent with this government’s lack of appreciation for the importance of research,” said Neville.

She anticipates whatever plan the government announces with its $10 million will be heavy on crime and punishment and light on responding to needs and wants of aboriginal communities.

Story here.