One of the most heartbreaking revelations of the final report on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry is the constant threat Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people have to live with.
It’s clear that, no matter the setting or region in Canada, security is a key concern for the overwhelming majority of survivors and families who shared their stories with the National Inquiry.
It’s also clear that we’re not doing enough to protect them.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify something: I’m a white, straight, Christian male. I’m acutely aware that my role here is to listen and learn.
But my role is also to use the privilege I have been born with to raise awareness and contribute toward building a more just society.
My intention with this column is not to provide any answers, but rather to solicit the advice of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people on what Siloam Mission can do to improve.
Every day more than 500 people walk through the doors of Siloam Mission because they’re in a moment of crisis. Many are Indigenous, and many are female.
Over the last 30 years we’ve worked hard to improve and guarantee the safety of everyone, but especially our female community members who are often the most vulnerable in our midst.
The truth is by the time a woman comes to Siloam Mission, she has exhausted all other resources. We know from experience that before entering a co-ed shelter like ours, women couch-surf with friends, sleep outside, and often have to do things they otherwise would not do, just to have a roof over their head.
So when a woman shows up at our door, it’s likely that somewhere along the way her family, friends, social services agencies and any other safety net she had has failed her.
She has nowhere else to go and, it’s also likely she’s in extreme distress.
That’s why we’re trying to operate more and more through a gender lens when designing our programs and services. We have a long way to go, and I’ll be the first one to admit it.
But that’s why we allow women to enter the shelter first at night.
It’s why we always try to keep a few emergency beds open — in case a woman comes to us in the middle of the night.
That’s why we’ve invested in offering more healthcare services designed for women.
And that’s why in the expansion we’re currently building beside our main building on 300 Princess St., we’re creating more emergency and transitional beds specifically for women and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
But we know we can do more.
And we want to do more, especially for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people who are at risk of experiencing homelessness or already using our services.
So we want to hear from others — specifically from the Indigenous community, specifically from women in that community — on how we can improve.
This is an open invite. We’re here to listen.
Because at the end of the day, nobody in our city, province and country should feel like they’re constantly in danger. It’s unconscionable. And we can’t allow it to continue.