It is often said that Winnipeg and Manitoba are ground zero for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse peoples.
Long-time advocate, Sandra Delaronde agrees with that assessment and believes the statistics show it will continue to be.
“I think there’s a lack of genuine systemic response to the issues around safety and wellbeing of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people,” says Delaronde on the latest episode of Face to Face.
“A prime example is the landfill and the failure to search, the ongoing failure to search, leading to at least three women being found in dumpsters in the past year. So, that becomes a place where perpetrators feel safe to get rid of their victim because no one is going to search.”
Delaronde says she is shocked that a search of the Prairie Green Landfill, just outside Winnipeg, for the bodies of three slain Indigenous women has still not started and feels awful for the families who will likely head into the trial for an alleged serial killer, with their loved ones still in the landfill.
Delaronde says the violence continues to rise because society as a whole and institutions are not taking responsibility for their parts. She says from the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry to the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to today, there’s been no progress in changing systems and as a result, Indigenous women continue to be victimized and targeted.
One institution that Delaronde is hopeful about its commitment to doing better is the Manitoba RCMP.
Delaronde moderated an event late last year where Indigenous leaders in Manitoba and the RCMP announced the formation of a Joint Action Circle to address 10 core components of the national inquiry’s call for justice.
At the press conference, the RCMP announced that Indigenous women and girls accounted for 21 per cent of homicides in its jurisdictions in the province in the last three years, including eight Indigenous women killed in 2023.
Delaronde will sit on that action circle which is scheduled to meet in February.
For years, Delaronde has raised concerns about the millions of dollars in federal funding towards MMIWG2S initiatives not making its way to the families and those on the front lines of the ongoing crisis.
“I have no idea where it’s ending up but I do know that families that need support through a judicial process, families that need support for ground searches, or when they are dealing with loss or going through a court system, that’s where the support is needed. So, every time those events take place, we have to do fundraising or Go Fund Me’s,” says Delaronde.
Delaronde has worked tirelessly, mostly behind the scenes, to end violence and support families of MMIWG2S.
“My first memory of advocacy was with the death of Helen Betty Osborne in the Pas and how her friends came to my parent’s house and sat with my mom at her kitchen table,” says Delaronde who was living in the Pas at the time of Osborne’s murder.
“I was a kid and I was eavesdropping and I don’t remember what was said but I remember that the young women felt safe being at my mom’s table. It always stuck with me. Being afraid of who the killers might be and that there was no justice for Betty.”
Decades later, Delaronde was instrumental in developing and managing the Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Scholarship.
Established in 2000 to honour the life and legacy of Osborne, who was murdered in 1976, the scholarship has provided more than $ 1 million in support to more than one thousand Indigenous students.