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Gladys Radek stands in front of her car covered with photos of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Radek is collaborating with Bishop’s University academics for the Unearthing Justices Partnership (UJP) research project.

By: Cassie MacDonell

Local Journalism Initiative

In Canada, statistics show that Indigenous women are more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. One group of academics from the Bishop’s University Sociology Department have received funds for a project that seeks to address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit+ People (MMIW2S+) in partnership with Indigenous-based and Indigenous-led collectives and resources.

On Tuesday, Dr. Vicki Chartrand, Dr. Genner Llanes-Ortiz, and Dr. Alex Miltsov discovered they received a grant of $297,242 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for their Unearthing Justices Partnership (UJP) research project, which will be done in collaboration with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers Gladys Radek (Tears4Justice) and Viola Thomas (Protect Our Indigenous Sisters Society). The success rate of the grant application was under 30 per cent.

“The whole idea of the partnership is to connect with people doing the important work and having it (in) a database so anyone can have access,” Chartrand explained. The project strives to partner with Indigenous-based collectives to provide an accessible space for Indigenous-led and Indigenous-based resources that address MMIW2S+. The project will digitally map, showcase, and share these supports through the development of a national website and other digital media platforms.

Chartrand looked back at what sparked the project. “It started quite a few years back in 2008 or 2009 when I was in BC when I met Gladys Radek.” Radek is a grassroot human rights activist, who Chartrand continued to encounter at events such as Take Back the Night in Ottawa. Radek was on a walk across the country to raise awareness of missing and murdered women and children in Canada, especially within First Nation communities and families. On her walks, she collected the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women, with the mission to unite family members of lost loved ones from across Canada. Radek has gone on five national walks, inspired by the family members of the missing and murdered nationwide, and by her own niece who went missing.

Chartrand, a long-time anti-violence activist, supported Radek in her walks. “I started to notice there was more than simply awareness—it was healing,” Chartrand said, “the walk inspired people to do other things.”

With a grant, Chartrand was able to go on a road trip to talk about the work that was being done across Canada. After doing a national media scan, they tracked over 100 initiatives across Canada. She read testimonies every night from family and community members, reading the heart-wrenching hardships, but also learning about their resiliency.

Chartrand realized there were countless initiatives being done in support of missing and murdered Indigenous women, but not all people had access to the important resources and the work being produced. “We wanted to find ways to connect the families and ensure they had access to the resources,” Chartrand explained.

This led to the Unearthing Justices Partnership.

Chartrand explained the initiatives and resources created by the Indigenous community reflect what justice is and needs. “Justice isn’t just about segregation and punishment. It’s also about healing and support,” she said.

Chartrand looks forward to continuing to collaborate with grassroots Indigenous MMIW2S+ groups. “Grassroots teaches us to come out in a very organic way, with lots of reciprocity,” said Chartrand, “it’s important we come at this (project) with the intention of relationship.”

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