Need for 'action' behind funding cut to Sisters in Spirit: cabinet ministers' letter



APTN National News
OTTAWA
–The Conservative government justifies its decision to no longer fund the research project responsible for raising hundreds of murdered and missing Aboriginal women cases out of the shadows by saying it is now time for “action,” in a letter signed by two cabinet ministers and released to APTN National News.

The government lays out the reasoning for its decision to cut funding to Sisters in Spirit, the landmark research project that detailed hundreds of missing and murdered cases, in the letter which is addressed to Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

NWAC could not be immediately reached for comment.

NWAC has criticized the government for cutting its Sisters in Spirit project out of the recently announced $10 million strategy to deal with murdered and missing Aboriginal women cases.

NWAC has said the Oct. 29 announcement had little to do specifically with Aboriginal women and gave the bulk of the money to the RCMP to set up a branch to investigate all missing persons cases. NWAC also said it was never consulted on the content of the announcement.

The government says that while Sisters in Spirit was successful, it was time to move on to a more concrete focus.

“The Sisters in Spirit research and awareness project has accomplished much of what it was intended to do. It is time to move to action, by taking the research and implementing it on the streets,” said the letter, dated Nov. 24 and signed by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose. “We would also like to reassure you that the ability of NWAC to continue to use the Sisters in Spirit name or to conduct further research using other funding sources is not in doubt.”

According to sources, NWAC was told it could no longer use the Sisters in Spirit name or continue research on its vaunted database of missing and murdered cases in any project that uses government money.

The letter states that NWAC is currently receiving $500,000 for an eight-month project called Evidence to Action.

APTN National News has learned that the original name for the project was Sisters in Spirit, Evidence to Action, but Status of Women officials forced NWAC to cut out the name Sisters in Spirit.

The letter states that Status of Women Canada is also poised to fund NWAC for a three-year project called Evidence to Action II.

The government also expressed “great concern” with NWAC’s criticism of the $10 million strategy and uses Corbiere-Lavell’s words against her.

“These criticisms have been more disconcerting as we spoke to you prior to the announcement to explain details…We recall your words at this time being ‘this is a long time coming, but worth the wait,'” said the letter.

The letter also expressed concerns about “inaccurate media reports” about the government’s announcement.

“The comments are troubling in that the information does not reflect the facts about our new initiatives,” said the letter.

The letter said the goal of the strategy is a “multi-tiered approach to provide new tools for law enforcement, improve the justice system, enhance victim’s services, and introduce community programs to help prevent these troubling acts and bring those responsible to justice.”

Aside from the $4 million going to the RCMP, which “will clearly not just be specific to women or Aboriginal women,” the government is also funding school and community violence prevention projects, a Western provinces victim’s fund, community safety plans, awareness materials and a compendium of “best practices,” the letter said.

As part of its strategy, the government also plans to introduce new amendments to the criminal code to make it easier for police to execute warrantless wiretaps in emergency situations and to obtain multiple warrants on a single application to a judge.

Sisters in Spirit recieved a five-year, $5 million funding committment from the Liberal government which ran out the last fiscal year.

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