Friendship Centre learns about MMIWG resources

The executive director of the Brandon Friendship Centre says the organization would be interested in seeing whether a special support for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people could open in Brandon.

On Thursday, federal Justice Minister David Lametti reaffirmed Ottawa’s support for Family Information Liaison Units (FILUs). The units, which are available in every province and territory across Canada, are delivered through victim services and Indigenous community organizations.

FILUs provide specialized service to families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people. Justice Canada provides funding to support the units through the Federal Victims Strategy, which is implemented through victims’ advocates, provincial and territorial governments, victim services, law enforcement and others involved in the criminal justice system.

“Since their establishment in 2016, FILUs helped thousands of family members across the country,” Lametti stated in a Justice Department press release. “We know the need for answers has not ended, and we are committed to supporting the continued delivery of their critical supports and services for as long as they are needed.”

In Manitoba, FILUs currently exist in Winnipeg and Thompson. Brandon Friendship Centre executive director Gail Cullen said she is keen to know more about how they serve the communities they exist in.

“I’m going to look into this,” Cullen said.

Although there is no FILU in Brandon, Manitoba’s Justice Victim Services provides support for the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people through a family liaison contact that works with regional areas, including in Westman, a spokesperson for Manitoba’s Justice Department told the Sun.

“The FILU team works collaboratively to provide support to MMIWG families and community. When the needs arises, multiple FILUs can support one family due to the complex nature of the situation,” the spokesperson said.

Beginning in 2021, Victim Services also provided funding to the Manitoba Métis Federation for their Métis Family Support Project.

Manitoba currently has the fourth highest rates of domestic violence in the country, following British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec.

Advocates in Brandon have been lobbying the province for more resources to address the exploitation and trafficking of Indigenous women and youth. According to some advocates, the problem is at a crisis level in Brandon.

In response to a request for an interview with Lametti, press secretary Diana Ebadi said that while the federal government is providing a renewal of ongoing funding for FILUs through the Department of Justice, it is up to provinces and territories to determine where FILUs are located, how many there are in each region and how they operate.

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun