Indigenous leaders, victims’ families call for urgent action as MMIWG report filed to province
January 17, 2022 By Jenna Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, with files from Sarah Williscraft
Jan. 17, 2022, Fort McMurray, Alta. – The Alberta Joint Working Group on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) has published its final report, which is expected to be published in the spring. Indigenous leaders and the families of victims hope the report will finally create real change, but are frustrated conversations on what to do have lasted for years.
The committee of three Indigenous leaders and three MLAs was created in March 2020. Their mandate was to advise the province on responding to the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“We will review the final report and develop concrete and meaningful actions that will make Alberta a safer place for Indigenous women, girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people and all people in Alberta,” said Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson in a statement.
McMurray Metis treasurer Cindy Bourque-Punko said in an interview that action on the inquiry’s calls for justice for victims and their families is overdue.
“The national inquiry was released in 2019 and I don’t see a ton of action,” she said. “Their loved ones deserve to have answers in terms of the investigation part, they deserve to know why they have gone missing or murdered and what could we have done to prevent or support these women.”
There are nine Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people who have been reported missing or murdered in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area since 2004.
The most recent death was Ellie Herman, a member of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation who was last seen in September 2019. Herman’s remains were found last year on March 20 near a trail by the Rotary Club Gazebo at Thicket Drive and Silin Forest Road.
Another victim is Amber Tuccaro, a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. Amber flew from Fort McMurray to Edmonton with her son and a friend in August 2010. She was last seen at a motel in Nisku, Alta. Her remains were found two years later in a field outside Leduc.
“We re-live it every day,” said Amber’s brother, Paul. “People call us with tips, and we tell them to pass it on to the RCMP and the RCMP says ‘oh we got it but it didn’t check out’.”
Tuccaro said the family is also working on a MMIWG2S learning module that uses Amber’s story. The family hopes to offer the course to schools across Alberta.
The Tuccaro family filed a complaint against the RCMP with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) in 2014. The CRCC found that the police did a poor job at investigating Amber’s murder. Alberta RCMP admitted their officers mishandled the investigation and apologized, but the Tuccaro family has refused to accept their apology.
“I would like to see them put their money where their mouth is and set something up where families who have been affected can help other families? whether it is going to the RCMP to get updates or anything,” said Tuccaro.
Adrienne South, a spokesperson for Wilson, said the province has responded to some of the calls for action. This includes initiatives like Clare’s Law, preventing violent offenders from legally changing their names, and creating a task force on human trafficking in Alberta.
“The TRC calls to action are a starting place, and we have gone further by taking other actions that will help Indigenous communities build prosperity and social wellness, such as creating the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation,” said South.
– Fort McMurray Today
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