Any national initiative designed to curtail violence against aboriginal women must take the NWT’s cultural values into account, says Caroline Cochrane.
The territory’s minister responsible for the status of women recently attended the second national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) in Winnipeg.
Federal, provincial and territorial representatives converged on the Manitoba capital for three days of meetings late last week.
Read: Carolyn Bennett: #MMIW Inquiry Will Acknowledge ‘Unique’ North
On Wednesday, government officials heard from family members during closed-door sessions before holding two days of meetings.
There, ministers discussed the upcoming national inquiry as well as actions governments can take now to address the issue of violence against indigenous women. Cochrane defined the meetings as productive.
“It was really rewarding to have the families there and to be able to actually hear from them,” she said. “They were very adamant that they want action done so we are committed to moving on this.
“The biggest progress in my opinion was actually having the federal government at the table and committing to work with the provinces and territories.”
Cochrane says leaders have agreed to work on three tiers in particular: prevention and awareness, community safety and looking at culturally relevant policing measures and justice.
Within that, she says governments will develop measurable outcomes so that progress can be gauged in all three areas.
‘It’s not something we can stand back on’
Last week’s meetings took place as the federal government prepares to roll out a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
Recently, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett completed a series of cross-Canada pre-inquiry consultations, asking families what they think an inquiry should look like.
Cochrane says a national inquiry would be ineffective if it lacked a Northern component.
“We have to be careful that we don’t advocate for a national forum that does not consider our cultural values,” she said.
“Considering that we have the second-highest rates of family violence in Canada … it’s not something that we can stand back on. It’s something that we need to aggressively pursue.”
Cochrane says that means acknowledging different cultural values between First Nations, Metis and Inuit women.
The first national MMIW roundtable was held in Ottawa last February. It was supposed to be held in Yellowknife but the location changed because of logistical issues.