Family members receiving support
Announcement of specialists to serve as liaisons
It’s been eight years, but Vanessa Brooks still has no idea who murdered her sister Tanya.
The Millbrook First Nation member is remembering her older sister, who left behind five children, just before the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women comes to Nova Scotia, on Oct. 30.
“She was a very talented artist. She had a kind heart. She was smart,” recalled Brooks, fighting back tears. “What happened to her ... she was found in a winter well in Halifax.”
Brooks talked about her sister as the province announced the hiring Thursday in Indian
Brook of three community outreach specialists to provide cultural support to family members before, during and after the inquiry’s time in Nova Scotia.
The specialists are experienced in dealing with the type of trauma experienced by family members who have lost loved ones and in many cases have no idea what happened to them.
“This is a tragedy that also touches Nova Scotia. Some of those murdered and missing are from our very own province,” said Justice Minister Mark Furey.
Co-ordinated through the province’s Family Information Liaison Unit, the three specialist outreach positions are funded by the federal government and are being rolled out in partnership with the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association.
The FILU is a place for families of murdered and missing loved ones to obtain information on individual cases from police and other agencies, services and resources to deal with trauma, information on how to file a complaint or report misconduct and learn of overall inquiry progress.
The team can also connect relatives of murdered and missing loved ones to community elders, as well as arrange meetings with the National Inquiry’s community liaison worker for Nova Scotia, should they wish to partake.
The three-year federal funding agreement, announced by Ottawa last year, will provide the province with $790,000 until March 31, 2019. It covers FILU costs including co-ordination of information gathering for families, the newly-announced outreach specialists, assistance for therapeutic supports for family members of victims and administrative expenses.
The federal support will also help provide cultural supports including smudging ceremonies, prayers and sweat lodges.
“They’re exponentially important,” said Brooks.
Brooks said the FILU team helped her family bring Tanya’s remains home and lay her to rest after years of uncertainty.
She told SaltWire Network that murders divide families and being unable, for a long time, to bring Tanya home “was a huge part of the weight that was in our family.”
Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said the FILU was a welcome addition to already-established relationships with communities and families impacted by the loss of loved ones.
“I am very pleased that the Province of Nova Scotia has listened and worked with us to provide culturally appropriate and culturally delivered services for families and communities of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls,” said Maloney in a media release Thursday.
The total number of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls across Canada is unknown, with estimates ranging from about 1,200 to more than 4,000.
A 2014 RCMP report recorded 1,017 deaths between 1980 and 2012 and another 164 missing.
Vanessa Brooks, who lost her sister Tanya Brooks in 2009, speaks during proceedings at the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association office in Sipekene’katik First Nation. Justice Minister Mark Fury announced the province will support families and...