Making life safer for Indigenous women and girls in Alberta

Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson (left) and Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Sharon Aheer (right) announced the new Alberta Joint Working Group on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“I am confident the individuals appointed to the Alberta Joint Working Group on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will be guided by experience and humanity, and will make thoughtful and wise recommendations. We said Alberta would respond to the calls for justice and we are. We are moving forward to make our province a safe place for Indigenous women and girls.”

Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations

The Alberta government has appointed three Indigenous community members and three members of the legislative assembly to inform a government action plan that responds to the calls for justice of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“It is our collective responsibility to prevent violence against women and girls. This joint working group is a vital part of our commitment to addressing the national inquiry, ending all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA making Alberta a safer place for all.”

Leela Sharon Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women

The joint working group will support the government’s actions by:

  • Advising on options to address issues of violence and the calls for justice.
  • Making recommendations on how to work with Indigenous communities, other governments and the private sector to leverage actions to combat violence against Indigenous women and girls.
  • Providing input and making recommendations on the government’s action plan.

The joint working group has a one-year mandate, which may be extended.

Quick facts

  • The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was established by the federal government in December 2015.
  • The final report was released on June 3, 2019, and contains 231 calls for justice.
  • In Canada, statistics show that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than any other women in Canada.
  • Between 1980 and 2012 in Alberta, there were 206 murdered Indigenous women, accounting for 28 per cent of all female homicide victims in the province in that time period.
  • In 2017, there were 4.22 homicides of Aboriginal females per 100,000 people, an increase of 32 per cent from the previous year. This rate is six times higher than that of non-Aboriginal females.

Joint working group members

Lisa Higgerty

Lisa Higgerty is a member and co-chair of the Métis Women’s Council on Economic Security. Her career advocating for the victims of sexual abuse began 15 years ago and has resulted in the Mamowichihitowin Community Wellness Program, an innovative holistic program in rural Alberta unique to Canada. She has since expanded the mandate of the program to cover all types of domestic violence in west-central Alberta.

Rachelle Venne

Rachelle Venne is the CEO of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and has experience in the non-profit, corporate and government sectors. She was a member of End Poverty Edmonton’s Aboriginal Roundtable and Implementation Road Map Team and was one of six Canadian NGO delegates selected to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2017.

Josie Nepinak

Josie Nepinak is the executive director of Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society, the only Indigenous urban women’s shelter in Alberta, and has a strong background supporting Indigenous women and families dealing with family violence and facing complex social issues.

A member from the First Nations Women’s Council on Economic Security will be announced shortly.

Martin Long

Martin Long is the MLA for West Yellowhead. He is a member of the Special Standing Committee on Members’ Services and the Standing Committee on Families and Communities. Prior to his election as a member of the legislative assembly, Mr. Long worked as an operator for Alberta Newsprint in Whitecourt for nine years.

Whitney Issik

Whitney Issik is the MLA for Calgary-Glenmore. She serves on the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing and on the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future. Prior to serving with the legislative assembly, she owned and operated a small business in Calgary for almost 30 years. She has also worked in the telecommunications and energy industries.

Tracy Allard

Tracy Allard is the MLA for Grande Prairie. She serves on the Standing Committee on the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future. Prior to being elected, she was a business owner, having franchised Tim Hortons restaurants in Prince Rupert, B.C., and in Grande Prairie.