MMIWG screening shines light on those impacted by crisis

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

A documentary from an Indigenous journalist and advocate is the next event lined up to raise awareness around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

On Wednesday, May 12 the “Treaty #3 MMIWG Awareness Month Events” Facebook group will be holding a virtual screening of the documentary “1200+,” co-produced by Sheila North, an Indigenous advocate and journalist with both the CBC and CTV News, as well as the former Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO).

The documentary focuses on the continuing MMIWG crisis in Canada, though it is set primarily in Winnipeg, Manitoba following the death and discovery of Tina Fontaine in 2014. The screening of the documentary on May 12 will be followed by a question and answer session with North.

The Facebook group behind the screening is a collaborative effort between the United Native Friendship Centre (UNFC), the Treaty Three Police Spirit of Hope project and Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre. Staff from each organization have come together to line up a series of events kicking off on May 5 and continuing through the rest of the month in order to raise awareness and promote conversations on and around the issue of MMIWG in Canada and in our own backyards. According to Jasmine Nastiuk, Indigenous Care Coordinator with Gizhewaadiziwin, the idea to hold a screening of the documentary came from another MMIWG event.

“I was in a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls workshop a couple months ago that Grand Council Treaty Three had put on, and they had Sheila North there,” Nastiuk explained.

“North was talking about the 1200+ movie. She said her passion was always working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to raise awareness about the tragedy of MMIWG. I went and watched the trailer for the documentary, because you have to request to watch the documentary, and it looked really good. It just highlights some of the systemic issues that place Indigenous women at greater risk for violence and sexual exploitation.”

Nastiuk said the feature-length documentary was a good choice for a local screening not only because of the proximity it has to our area, being primarily set in Winnipeg, but also because of the emotions she felt watching the trailer itself.

“It’s not a very long trailer, you don’t see a lot in the trailer, but there were young girls, and at one point it had a flashback to a residential school where they’re shaving this young girl’s hair,” she said.

“That, I think, really stood out to me. It definitely brought up some emotions. I think the trailer with the different young girls and the residential school part of it really caught me.”

As the documentary is rather long, Nastiuk said the day will be split into two portions, with the screening of the 1200+ documentary itself starting at 10 a.m., and the question and answer period with North taking place afterwards at 1 p.m.

For anyone on the fence about attending the screening, Nastiuk said they can head to the Facebook event page for more information.

“I did also post the trailer on our Facebook page, because it could be pretty triggering for some people, but there will be some of my partners who will be there if someone needs to talk,” she explained.

As for the question and answer period to follow the screening, Nastiuk said that even while they will submit a list of questions to North to answer, there will also be a way for those taking part in the event to submit their own questions.

The slate of events happening throughout the month, along with other awareness events from other organizations and partners, all aim to raise the profile of the MMIWG crisis in the country, and in our area. For her part, Nastiuk said the screening of the documentary helps in these efforts by helping to put a spotlight on the voices of those most affected.

“It’s really important to raise awareness and amplify the voices that have been impacted by MMIWG,” she said.

“To amplify the voices and bring awareness and maybe try to see if we can’t come up with community-driven solutions.”

Those who are wanting to attend the virtual screening are asked to register at the Facebook page, and a Zoom link to the screening will be sent out the day before.