Delegates representing families of missing, murdered Indigenous women hope their testimony will be ‘first step’

Nunatukavut president Todd Russell (left) and Aboriginal Affairs minister Bernard Valcourt arrive at the roundtable meeting.

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA–Judy Maas, from Blueberry River in British Columbia, whose sister Cynthia Maas was killed in 2010, delivered a powerful message that brought rousing applause from some delegates in the room during the morning session of the national roundtable on murdered and missing Indigenous women, according to people who were at the meeting.

Outside the Marriott Hotel meeting room, which is guarded by Ottawa police and plain-clothed RCMP personnel with ear-pieces, Maas said she was just telling the truth.

“I spoke the truth. I heard my own story and the stories that were told at the gathering and I wanted to deliver a message in a way, in a good way, in way that allows us to be heard,” said Maas, whose sister was killed in Prince George, B.C.

Maas says it remains to be seen whether the roundtable, which includes federal and provincial representatives, including premiers, the leaders of Indigenous organizations and delegates representing the families, will achieve anything by the end of Friday.

“Time will tell and the opportunity to be heard is a first step,” said Maas, who was one of four delegates selected to represent the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women. “However, we are awaiting what is going to take place after this.”

Bev Jacobs, a former president of the Native Women’s Association, said she told the roundtable, now was the time to act.

“I also acknowledged the families who aren’t being heard and that they need to hear them,” said Jacobs, who was also one of four delegates selected to represent the families. “I talked about policing and responsibilities and acting immediately on missing persons, rather than waiting 24 hours.”

Some of those in attendance said they were disappointed the format of the meeting did not allow for a real exchange of views and prevented family representatives from challenging the federal representatives, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch, over their claims that the issue of violence against women stems from Indigenous communities themselves.

The meeting is being chaired by Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn, along with Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger and Yukon Premier Darrel Pasloski are the only provincial leaders in attendance. The other provinces are represented by minister and senior officials.

The roundtable meeting runs until later Friday afternoon.

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