Birch Island will host pre-inquiry discussion of probe into missing and murdered women

WHITEFISH RIVER FIRST NATION—All are encouraged to attend a pre-national inquiry community discussion for families of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people titled ‘Sprit to Spirit’ on Thursday, October 20 at Whitefish River First Nation’s community centre.

The evening will begin with a welcoming from families of missing and murdered indigenous women at 6:45 pm, with opening remarks from Anishinabek Nation Deputy Chief Glen Hare and an honour song followed by a community conversation circle at 7:15 pm led by Dr. Janet Smylie, Dr. Kim Stanton and Espanola artist Christi Belcourt.

Prior to this event, 23 families of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people from Ontario and Quebec will have met in a planning support meeting to share stories and take part in healing ceremonies. The community discussion is the culmination of that process.

The intent of this planning support meeting is to create an opportunity for families of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people to gather and inform the development of a support strategy in preparation for their testimonies at the upcoming national inquiry. The gathering aims to prepare people mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically as well as to identify concrete ways to engage in self-care and access external resources before, during, and after the national inquiry has completed its work.

“This is how we can all get together to understand the inquiry,” said Spirit to Spirit lead Mag Cywink, whose sister Sonya Nadine Mae Cywink, of Whitefish River First Nation, was found murdered over 20 years ago at a First Nation historic site in Southwestern Ontario.

“It’s an opportunity for people to ask questions to those people who might know more,” Ms. Cywink added.

Those people are Dr. Janet Smylie, who will teach healing practices families can use as well as answer the question of ‘how we help ourselves out of the trauma’; Dr. Kim Stanton, an excerpt in truth commissions the world over who will help families understand what an inquiry is; and Espanola artist Christi Belcourt.

The evening will close with a candlelight vigil led by the 23 families of missing and murdered indigenous women and a closing prayer.

All with an interest in this national topic are encouraged to attend the Whitefish River First Nation Community Centre on Thursday, October 20, beginning at 6:45 pm.