A specialty licence plate to raise funds for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people in Manitoba is another step closer to reality.
But most of the steps have already been taken and don’t need to be redone, said NDP-MLA Bernadette Smith, whose sister Claudette Osborne-Tyo disappeared while walking home in Winnipeg in 2008 and has not been located.
The member of Duck Bay First Nation had already received approval from affected families and chosen a design when she introduced a private member’s bill in the Manitoba legislature last October.
While the governing Progressive Conservatives like the idea of a donor plate Smith said they didn’t support Bill 223. She said they gave the project to Manitoba Public Insurance [MPI], a Crown corporation that manages motor vehicle safety, auto insurance and licensing.
MPI has so far approved specialty plates for sports teams, cancer research and even a pet rescue.
A spokesperson for MPIT said it is surveying the public on three plate designs and determining which MMWIG2S+ charity will receive $30 from each $70 sale.
“As part of this important work, the Corporation is seeking feedback from First Nations communities, including family members of victims, on several proposed licence plate designs,” Kristy Rydz wrote in an email to APTN News.
“The licence plate concepts were created in consultation with people from First Nations communities, including family members of victims.”
Smith said she would like the money to go to an education fund for children of affected families or a charity created specifically for those children to access higher education.
“Families, who are one income, are already struggling and want to have the ability to send their kids to post-secondary school,” she said in an interview.
“The work had already been done,” said Smith. “If [the Conservatives] had proclaimed it and supported it – the plates would already be out.”
Also, Smith said she has a list of Indigenous artists waiting to be asked to create the final design.
MPI declined to do an interview. It said in its emailed statement it is leading the project in partnership with the Manitoba government.
It said the design options put forward are based, in part, on artwork submitted by Smith.
“I’ve been working with families for a couple of years [to find out if this is] something they want. Would it bring up trauma for them?” Smith added.
“I’m an MMIWG family member. I’ve met with thousands of family members, I see them all the time. They were all in support.”
Hundreds and potentially thousands of Indigenous women, girls and Two-spirit victims have vanished or been killed by violence over the past half century in Canada. Smith, like the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2017-2019), has termed the human losses “a genocide” fuelled by racism and misogyny.
Rydz said, “MPI is committed to creating this specialty licence plate to raise money for affected families and survivors impacted by this important issue.”
But because MPI is still in “the consultative phase”, it is to soon to know the final cost of the licence plate development, she added, noting the plate should be available for sale later this year.
A similar plate, in collaboration with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is available in Minnesota.