Women helping lead change in Treaty 2 territory in Manitoba

Women in Treaty 2 in Manitoba are playing a key role in developing services and laws within their territory.

Part of the Treaty 2 governance structure includes what they call circles.

Circles help draft laws and engage leadership with local nations on a variety of issues including economic development and child and family services among others.

There are seven circles and women are leading six of them.

“When you look back at our history women were the decision makers. They were the ones on the forefront that made those decisions. And they always made sure that there was balance, balance between men and women, balance between different nation members,” said Chantell Barker, who is the peacemaking circle keeper.

“So it’s really exciting to be a part of that and on the forefront paving the way for not only our own nation but for other nations who want to take back their inheriting rights and start to be self determining as well.”

Barker said the Treaty 2 government is working on getting away from the criminal justice system, instead focusing on traditional Anishinaabe practices.

“We are working on creating our own Anishinaabe government and part of that is having our own peacemaking system. In the western system it’s called the justice system, but we are trying to steer away from those colonial terms and shift the thinking of how we want to restore harmonies in the communities so we call it peacemaking,” she said.

Desiree Dorion, a lawyer working as part of the children, families and nation circle, said she’s helping lead the way to draft a legislation that will enable Treaty 2 government to have their own jurisdiction in child and family services.

Dorion said having women in the process is imperative to making positive change.

“In the sense of women being at the table so to speak in this circle, in the context of this work, I think it’s incredibly important. We’re the mothers, we’re the life givers and our voices are incredibly important when we are talking about bringing fundamental change to this area of the law,” she said.

Dorion said part of the team she works with includes former Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and former Pimicikamak Cree Nation Chief John Miswagon.

This is just one example of how women are playing key roles in government and leading the way for change for the better.

The Government of First Nations in Treaty 2 territory in Manitoba is a collective body that represents the interests of the First Nations in Treaty 2 territory.

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