SASKATOON — Aly Bear will be pushing for the implementation of the calls to justice that are listed on a final report, based on a national inquiry on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was released in 2019.
Bear, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations third vice-chief, is a leading advocate when it comes to the issue of MMIWG and Two-Spirit Peoples and she wants to see more action to help families find closure.
“Our MMIWG2S are the ones being targeted here. We need to do more to implement solutions like the [MMIWG2S] inquiry that was released, a national report in 2019, and we need to be able to implement those 231 calls to justice,” said Bear.
“We had just recently had the Indigenous declaration to honour indigenous women and girls adopted by the province. We’ve, just recently, had conversations with the provincial government about doing something to get behind the declaration that was adopted.”
She added that solutions must be created to prevent violence against MMWIG2S with the help of all levels of the government.
“We’ve been talking to the federal government about adopting that declaration. We’re looking to have the federal government, provincial government and municipal government back us all so we can create solutions and not just have ongoing statistics.”
One solution that she is pushing for is more funding for the Red Eagle Lodge, an institution that will give safe space and uphold women’s rights for Saskatchewan’s First Nation women who are experiencing violence.
“We want to see some sort of action behind that declaration, we want to have safe spaces for our women and we want funding to create these safe spaces. One of the safe spaces is the Red Eagle Lodge and we want to continue to implement prevention, strategies and solutions that come from First Nations people and are First Nations-led.”
“If we can get them [the federal and provincial governments] on board to help fund these safe spaces in the community, like the Red Eagle Lodge, that we are trying to propose and get off the ground then we can have some sort of solution,” added Bear.
She said more work needs to be done to prevent another case like Megan Gallagher, who went missing almost two years ago. The latest development in her case, which is now being investigated as a homicide, had the RCMP arrest the second of three persons wanted in connection with her death.
Jessica Sutherland was arrested on June 4 in the area of Onion Lake with the help of a tip from the public. The RCMP has also taken into custody Roderick William Sutherland last week in Prince Albert, with John Wayne Sanderson remaining at large as of posting time.
Bear said she’s been in contact with the Gallagher family about Megan’s case after being elected to the FSIN executive and there was also a personal connection with her disappearance.
“We [FSIN] stand with the Gallagher family. I’ve known Megan since I was a teenager. We played hockey together here in Saskatoon. It hits close to home but this is also something that is ongoing and as Brian [Gallagher] mentions that this is a reality for many families,” she said.
“We have to stand together. The community has been there for the Gallagher family. That means we have a lot of work to do. We need to continue to create advocacies and awareness when it comes to these [MMIWG2S] issues. Because they are rampant and they are nonstop.”
Bear said that being one of the heads of the FSIN’s Women’s Commission (she shares the portfolio with Fourth Vice-Chief Heather Bear) she’s been receiving calls relating to violence against Indigenous women even during the weekends and evenings.
“We got to do more to support our women because they are our life-givers. It is not only their families that are hurting. Their children sometimes end up having their mothers missing or murdered.”
Family needs closure
Other Indigenous leaders have spoken after the arrest of the suspects but believe the Gallagher family needs to know more in order to bring closure to this experience.
Métis Nation-Saskatchewan Women and Gender Equity Minister Loretta King said they welcomed the progress on Megan’s disappearance and death but her family needs to get justice for what happened.
“Justice means that all individuals who had a hand in Megan’s disappearance are properly dealt with. Justice means Métis and other Indigenous women and girls do not face rates of violence and murder that scar our families and communities,” said King
MN-S President Glen McCallum said cases like Megan’s that are happening to Indigenous individuals are a terrible, adding that it is always the families that would bear the hurt of the loss of lives.
“A lot of our indigenous women and men have been lost through the years because of certain things happening,” McCallum told SASKTODAY.ca.
He added that MNS and other First Nation leaders are working together on how to address the issue on MMIWG2S.
“It's always reassuring people are working together to be able to formalize a plan to address the issue. To be able to have the police do what they did, and to be able to hopefully bring an end to this situation that we're in. I pray for the family and hopefully they can get closure,” said McCallum.
“Losing a family member doesn’t create closure at times, but at least we know that she [Megan] can be found. They [arrested] people that have done what they've done. I do think about the families regarding the loss of their loved ones.”
Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said that they are hoping all those involved in Megan’s disappearance and murder will be brought to justice and that her remains can be properly buried.
“I hope this situation that they found people [arrested suspects] that destroyed their family’s lives are being held accountable. At the end of the day, it may not bring Megan back, but the family needs to know how we can get Megan home,” said Arcand.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to the Gallagher family, for their daughter Megan. I hope somewhere along the line that the Gallaghers would be safe. We want them to be safe and healthy since this is a traumatic time for them. We hope they get the answers they need.”