IWG2S COMING HOME – LISTENING TO THE AUNTIES
Hope Restored Canada was honoured to work with the City of Saskatoon to develop an action plan that will inform City leadership decisions about improving the quality of life and health and safety for IWG2S people in Saskatoon, especially those experiencing all forms of violence, trauma and/or exploitation. HRC was selected for this initiative through a competitive process led by an advisory group that included residents with lived experience and expertise. This advisory group was formed by the City of Saskatoon to explore how the City could respond to the 231 Calls for Justice in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report.
As the National Report, Reclaiming Power and Place has clearly identified, there are deeply interconnected realities of intergenerational trauma, colonization, patriarchy, and the egregious over-representation of IWG2S people of those trafficked or exploited, missing and murdered, or otherwise experiencing violence. These interconnections have been long understood by those with lived experience, and echoed by HRC and the City in IWG2S Coming Home.
We encourage you to read this locally produced report, in which stories, questions, and guidance from participants are beautifully woven together with an outlined action plan. The message is clear – listen to the aunties. Listen to the aunties. There is wisdom in IWG2S Coming Home for all residents, regardless of occupation or neighborhood. Everyone can benefit from knowing that when participants were asked what the most important things an organization or business can do to show they are offering a safe & secure place for Indigenous peoples, the most common responses were simple steps like having staff who treat everyone equally and with trust, staff who make eye contact and offer relevant help, having Indigenous employees, and having Indigenous decor and art.
Despite generations of attempts to “conquer and control” Indigenous peoples and the land,
“mothers, grandmothers, aunties, two-spirited and multi-abled people are still here and are seen and heard and have power. Most importantly, they have work to do. These women are reconnecting, reinforcing, reuniting, and redefining to remember. They have no choice. It is their responsibility as aunties. It is the law.”
Arising out of the report development process, HRC is pleased that the City of Saskatoon will be hiring an Independent Representative of Matriarchs for IWG2S, who will later lead the creation of an IWG2S Centre. What an invaluable support this Representative of Matriarchs will be for Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people who make home in Saskatoon.
As named in IWG2S Coming Home,
“no one can do it all. No one can do it alone. Everyone must find their role as neighbors and fellow citizens”.
The board and staff of Hope Restored is committed to doing what we can, in partnership with others, to continue listening & being led by the aunties so Saskatoon can be a good place to make home for IWG2S people. Those contributing to this project articulated that,
“for Saskatoon to be home, IWG2S need support, security, safety, trust, respect, education, and employment. At a very basic level, every Indigenous woman, girl and two-spirited person needs safe spaces: a place to sleep; a bathroom to use in privacy; a kitchen in which to feed themselves and family.”
Hope Restored’s holistic restoration program for those exiting trafficking or exploitation aims to be just that – a safe place to sleep, cook, live and heal. We are grateful that across the City of Saskatoon, there are growing numbers of organizations and passionate residents ready to listen to the aunties – the aunties who are leading us in good ways, to make this vision of safety & belonging a reality. An end to exploitation and trafficking will not happen unless we are also committed to ending racism, sexism, colonialism and all other forms of violence and indignity against Indigenous peoples.