Advocate calls on all levels of government to support those affected by MMIWG2S

A call to action has been sent out for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Around 30 people met at the Timmins Native Friendship Centre to mark Sisters in Spirit Day, this morning (Oct. 4).

A prayer and a song for the women who have gone missing and those who have been victims of violence, and all the women still in the community, started the vigil.

Information is always available for those who want to know, said Jaylin Renaud, the healing and wellness co-ordinator at the friendship centre.

“I know there are so many folks at the friendship centre that are so willing to have conversations because they’re super meaningful, and as long as it comes from a place of kindness, then we’re open to that,” said Renaud.

Asiah Paulin is a mental health worker with the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) and says there's still work that needs to be done in Timmins.

“A good step, especially for Timmins, would be acknowledgment,” said Paulin. “I think this day, on the fourth, it shouldn’t just be the friendship centre acknowledging it. I think that Timmins, the mayor, the city, but someone should realize and recognize what we’re doing, so more people in the community have the education and knowledge behind it.”

Knowledge about the risks to Indigenous women is a big part of moving forward, said Paulin.

“A lot of people just don’t know much about MMIWG2S,” she said. “Acknowledge that a lot of the vulnerable population here are Indigenous women and girls.”

After the vigil, many participants went inside to work on craft kits provided by the friendship centre.

“Last year, we did the handprints on the bristol board, but the crafting’s new,” she said. “It gets people talking, and it’s calming, especially with something so heavy.”

Renaud said anyone looking to learn some crafts or needs tools is welcome to reach out.

“We want to make sure the community has the tools and the resources available to them so that they can move forward on their healing journey,” she said.

Renaud said there is still a need to fix the system that can lead to dangerous situations for Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.

“From what I’ve seen in my role, we need to do better so that folks aren’t cycling back through the justice system,” she said. “We need to get people connected, and by getting connected, that means the community here in Timmins needs more support.”

Renaud called on all levels of government to support those affected by MMIWG2S and help on their healing journey.

“While we do so much within our community, there’s so much more that has to be done, and we don’t have the resources currently in our community to help our community heal,” she said. “We need more people standing with us in our circle.”

Sisters in Spirit Day is similar to Red Dress Day, which is held May 5. It's a day to remember Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people who have faced violence, been murdered, or have gone missing. It is also a time for their families and friends to get together to remember them and to heal.

Anyone who needs support is welcome at the friendship centre.

“If somebody is needing support, as long as our office is open, someone will be here to support our community,” she said. “So if there’s anyone looking for support, that wants to talk, that wants to learn, we encourage that.”

A national hotline is available 24/7 for people affected by the issue of MMIWG2S+. It can be reached at 1-844-413-6649.

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,