Campaign event for Sheila North has upset some advocates and family members.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North is being accused of exploiting missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls for political profit.
A documentary North produced called 1200+ – about the growing number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Canada – is being shown as part of a meet-the-candidate fundraising event in Toronto June 19.
The event is billed as the Ontario launch of her campaign to become national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
But Marilyn Courchene, a band councillor from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, is upset with the connection.
“I have a confusion with Sheila North utilizing a film and charging it for her campaign,” Courchene told APTN News.
“The issue of missing and murdered women is sensitive to families. She should call the chief or me and ask permission.”
Marilyn Courchene posted this on Facebook.
Sagkeeng has reportedly lost more women and girls to violence than any First Nation in Manitoba, including Tina Fontaine, who is referenced in North’s documentary.
“What particularly bothers me is she’s using the missing and murdered issue, which is something she should have asked the families or chiefs if she could have permission to do,” Courchene said, adding she has known North for years and suggests this threatens to sour their relationship.
“To take something so sensitive and use it to gain position or title is wrong. If she continues to do that she’s not fit for AFN national chief.”
North says she is the draw at the event – not the documentary.
“The issue of MMIWG is one of central reasons why I am running and I will not stop educating people on the issues using all the tools at my disposal, this includes 1200+,” she said in emailed statement.
North has worked hard to raise awareness of the missing and murdered throughout her career as a former journalist and now politician.
The documentary focuses on one family who wanted their story told and approved its telling, she noted.
“Addressing the root causes facing Indigenous women and girls will take a concerted effort by many people and systems,” she added in her statement to APTN.
“This begins with raising awareness every chance we all get.”
North has taken a tough stand on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls – and that has turned some people off.
She called on Chief Commissioner Marion Buller to resign, opposed giving the commission more time and money, and earlier this week described the inquiry as “bungled.”
Another MMIWG family member, who didn’t want her name used for fear of online bullying, said she respects North as a person and a leader. But doesn’t agree with mixing the two issues.
“I don’t like people using missing and murdered women and girls for personal gain,” she said after calling APTN.
“She’s using it to entice people to come and support her.”