Symposium aims to make policy recommendations to help Indigenous women
- NC Raine | August 28, 2018
Shining a light on issues, concerns, and solutions surrounding mental health and wellness for Indigenous women was the grounding principle at the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women’s Circle Corporation (SAWCC) Symposium on August 23 and 24 in Saskatoon.
The Symposium, held every two years, aimed to help identify the health and wellness gaps affecting Indigenous women and youth in Saskatchewan, as well as increase awareness, influence policy, and provide tools to enhance lifestyles.
“We hope that the recommendations presented at the Symposium, in terms of things like nutrition and food security, and violence in the workplace, that we're able to develop these recommendations into policy,” Judy Hughes, SAWCC President told Eagle Feather News.
“We want to go forward to the federal, provincial, and Indigenous governments in terms of making significant changes in legislation to ensure there’s sufficient care for Indigenous women and youth,” she said.
This year’s symposium welcomed a diverse lineup of speakers presenting on a wide range of subjects, including Michele Audette, Commissioner of the national inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Audette spoke on moving from lateral violence in the workplace to lateral kindness, advocating for both a kinder workplace and kinder society.
Lynne Groulx, Executive Director for the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), also discussed the national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the impact its had on an entire nation of people.
“Most people (we work with) know someone who has been personally affected by missing and murdered Indigenous women. Or someone who has experienced incredible levels of violence, be it sexual, emotional, physical,” said Groulx.
Groulx and the NWAC lobbied for government to the root causes of missing and murdered women, which she says include historic colonialism, the Indian Act, and sex-based discrimination. She said the federal government is moving in the right direction, but was disheartened with the government’s decision on June 5th to only grant a limited extension to it’s mandate.
“We feel that the government is attempting to look at the issue in a serious way,” said Groulx. “But we are seriously disappointed in the extensions not having happened, and we’re taking steps to look at how we can help Indigenous women and family after the inquiry.”
As an extension of NWAC’s advocacy vocation, Groulx said they will try to continue to lobby to influence policy “to make sure those recommendations are in place and taken seriously.”
To increase awareness, NWAC presented their Faceless Doll Project at the Symposium; a traveling art collection of faceless dolls created to depict in memory the hundreds Indigenous women who have become faceless victims of crime.
In the spirit of providing tools to enhance lifestyles, the Symposium also focused on nutrition and food security, underlining affordability and how Indigenous people can reclaim food skills and knowledge.
“We lost that transfer of knowledge of how to prepare the kind of food that nourishes us,” said Michelle Brass, health and life coach. “I don’t think those skills are respected (by younger generations). The power and value to look after our people in the hone – how important it is cook and prepare food, and look after our families.”