It is hard to imagine that a project to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) with a mural on the side of the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre building could be controversial.
Nevertheless, both the Dze L K’ant Friendship Society and Smithers town council have concerns about it considering the sensitivity of the subject matter.
It is right and good to proceed with something like this with caution, but it is a project that should enjoy the broadest community support possible.
Here are some things to remember.
Dze L K’ant has done everything right. From the development of the proposal itself, the families of area women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered have been involved.
The process of designing the artwork itself has been a healing process involving Trauma-informed Healing Workshops conducted by a certified professional.
A professional Indigenous art collective was commissioned to do the work and has worked with the families throughout.
The final design will be an iterative process that seeks input and consensus among the stakeholders and is intended to honour, not make a political statement.
The funding for the project came from the federal government’s MMIWG Commemoration Fund.
That fund was one of the recommendations of the National Inquiry into MMIWG.
The National Inquiry itself was a lengthy and inclusive process that concluded commemoration is a “powerful way to help honour truths, support healing, create awareness, and to advance reconciliation.”
The issue is an ongoing national tragedy.
Ten per cent of all female homicides in Canada are Indigenous women and girls even though they represent only three per cent of the population.
More than a quarter (28 per cent) of all Canadian cases occurred in British Columbia.
Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than any other women in Canada and 16 times more likely than Caucasian women.
The way forward is together. Let’s get behind this project, Smithers.