Video creators hope to spark discussion of MMIWG

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer
kkellar@fortfrances.com

Video helps promote continuing discussion of MMIWG

Grand Council Treaty #3 and youth from across the Treaty #3 region have joined forces to help shine a light on the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis in Canada.

As part of MMIWG Awareness month and released on May 5, the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a video in recognition of MMIWG was created and released to the public. According to Cassandra Yerxa, the MMIWG worker with Grand Council Treaty #3, the video features both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth together in order to help raise awareness and eliminate violence against Indigenous women and girls.

“The video release was created By Youth For Youth with support of the Grand Council Treaty #3 Women’s Council, Gaagiidoo-Ikwewag,” Yerxa said.

“The video was created as a Treaty #3 Territory movement building on the Zahgidiwin Campaign [using red ribbons to recognize MMIWG] for youth by youth to honour our young people, our MMIWG families, those impacted by MMIWG, to honour the voices of those who will no longer stand for the violence against Indigenous Women and Girls.”

The official video is just under 15 minutes long and is available for viewing at the Grand Council Treaty #3 website, http://gct3.ca/for-youth- by-youth-mmiwg-video/. In the video, children and youth are featured holding signs or speaking in support of MMIWG, and dignitaries like Carolyn Bennet, the minister of crown-Indigenous relations, Kimberly Murray, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General for The Indigenous Justice Division and Wab Kinew lend their voices to the cause, encouraging conversation and discussion to help bring the crisis to an end. All the voices, photos and songs together help reinforce the central message of the video, which Yerxa said is to speak out against the silence that otherwise shrouds MMIWG.

“[The video’s message is] to honour the families, the people impacted by MMIWG, the women, the men, the youth,” she explained.

“Zahgidiwin is not only for one day, but every day. When we learn to love ourselves and others the other six teachings will follow and when Zahgidiwin lives within all of us the National Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will come to an end.”

The video is another part of the Grand Council Treaty #3’s Zahgidiwin campaign, which has been active since January of this year, most notably in their efforts to have area businesses and homes display red ribbons in support of the cause. Yerxa shared that since its beginning at the start of the year, they have seen strong support for the campaign that hasn’t been limited to just the Treaty #3 area.

“People have reached out all over the world to honour the campaign and make donations to the six shelters within Treaty #3 Territory; Naotkamegwanning Women’s Shelter, Saakaate House, Shelter of Hope, Hoshizaki House, First Steps, and New Starts,” Yerxa said.

“Treaty 3 Police have supported the campaign as well as Ontario Provincial Police, Leadership across Treaty #3 Territory, The Canada Border Service Agency, Government Officials, Shelters, Education Institutes, School Boards, Businesses and Organizations. Presentations have also been delivered in schools across the territory on Zahgidiwin and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as well as organizations who provide service delivery to better understand the historical context of violence Indigenous people face and the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

Yerxa didn’t have the figures handy for just how many businesses in Fort Frances have put up a sign or ribbons to take part in the campaign. However, a quick stroll down Scott St. will reveal more than a few windows that show there is support for the initiative here, and there is still time for other businesses to take part, this year and for years to come.

Ribbons can be requested by emailing cassandra.yerxa@treaty3.ca, she said.

“For the month of February annually, we hope to see businesses across the Nation with window displays to honour the teaching Zahgidiwin, MMIWG families, and those impacted by MMIWG.”

According to Yerxa, Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered than any other demographic in Canada, which she says “works out to be three Indigenous women and girls per week, gone.” Initiatives like the For Youth By Youth video and the Zahgidiwin campaign are important efforts to help bring that number down to zero, by keeping the conversations around MMIWG going and advocating for those impacted by the crisis. Yerxa said other things like wearing red in solidarity can continue to promote awareness of the crisis beyond just a national day or awareness month.

“It is important to keep Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the victimization of Indigenous people at the forefront of discussion,” she explained.

“To continue to the conversation on what steps can be taken to address the under laying societal issues that lead to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and press for action on systemic racism in all its forms… I look forward to the growing number of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous youth that will honour Zahgidiwin and put an end to the victimization of Indigenous people and the National Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

For more information about MMIWG, visit www.mmiwg-ffada.ca to view the final report and 231 Calls to Action from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

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