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A sense of hope and relief for N.L. witnesses as MMIWG inquiry files report

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Click here to view original web page at A sense of hope and relief for N.L. witnesses as MMIWG inquiry files report

Nfld. & Labrador ·New ‘Help put an end to this violence,’ says Amena Evans-Harlick, who lost her mom Amena Evans-Harlick’s mother was murdered when she was 24 and Evans-Harlick was six. She testified at the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. (Sherry Vivian/CBC) Amena Evans-Harlick remembers […]


Nfld. & Labrador·New

'Help put an end to this violence,' says Amena Evans-Harlick, who lost her mom

Amena Evans-Harlick's mother was murdered when she was 24 and Evans-Harlick was six. She testified at the inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Amena Evans-Harlick remembers making cookies and exploring art in downtown St. John's as a little girl with her mom.

When she was six, her opportunity to make more memories with her 24-year-old Indigenous mother was taken away.

"She was murdered by someone she had known, and she was stuffed under a staircase and strangled and everything," Evans-Harlick said on Monday in St. John's.

"She was a wonderful mother. She loved cooking, and she was an artist, and she loved everything about Newfoundland and just really loved her family and wanted the best for everyone."

Evans-Harlick shared her story at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and said it was a scary experience.

"But I felt like I was being a voice for my mom, who can't speak for herself, so it felt really nice to be able to do something nice for her," said Evans-Harlick.

"I like to think that other little girls who are in my situation will kind of look up to me and see that you can kind of grow from it, and learn from it, and become a better person. Even though a parent or an aunt or anyone isn't there, you can still be with them and remember them."

'Protect our women. Protect our girls'

Evans-Harlick said it's a relief to have the inquiry's recommendations released, and hopes it continues an important public discussion she believes has put the issue on people's minds more than ever before.

"A lot of my friends didn't know that missing and murdered Indigenous women was a problem until they met me. I really hope that people can educate themselves, be a part of the conversation and help put an end to this violence," she said.

Evans-Harlick said she agrees with the inquiry's "Canadian genocide" label for what is happening with MMIWG.

"I don't fully understand the term, but I think that Indigenous cases kind of get shoved under the rug a little bit more than regular cases," she said, and that's something she'd like to see changed.

She also wants to see more education about Indigenous culture and the signs of domestic abuse or violence of any kind.

What else does she think people should do? "Protect our women. Protect our girls. Protect families," and respect Indigenous culture.

'We can't unknow what we know'

Mary Fearon, director of the Blue Door program at Thrive in St. John's, which helps people leave the sex trade, also testified at the inquiry. She said she's excited to hear more about the report's recommendations.

Mary Fearon is the director of the Blue Door program at Thrive in St. John's, which helps people transition out of the sex trade. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

One of the program's participants was in Ottawa for the report's release on Monday, and Fearon said one-third of its 27 participants identify as Indigenous.

"A lot of these individuals have had trauma in their lives, either sexual abuse [or] physical abuse, history of mental health in the family, parents who have been incarcerated. People who have just found themselves in precarious situations as young people," and been sexually exploited or engaged in survival sex to have a roof over their heads, she said.

Fearon said the fact that Indigenous women and girls are more vulnerable was part of the reason for the inquiry.

"I really hope that there's a focus on supporting people to move forward, and to really address a lot of indicators such as housing, education, poverty, mental health, addictions," from a harm-reduction perspective, she added.

"We can't unknow what we know," said Fearon, adding she hopes people will read the report and continue the "small shifts within our society" in terms of being more interested "in our real history of Canada."

As for her thoughts on the term "Canadian genocide," Fearon said she doesn't really know enough to comment.

"But I will say there have been some terrible atrocities within our society since the beginning of time, and we need to take responsibility for that. The generations of people who have been harmed by the impact of the Canadian government is really just shameful," she said.

"It's a Canadian problem; it's not an Indigenous problem."

Carol Anne Haley is the minister responsible for the status of women. (Katie Breen/CBC)

In an emailed statement, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister responsible for the status of women thanked the commissioners "for their work and valuable insights."

"We commend the survivors and family members who brought forward their truth," wrote Carol Anne Haley, as she committed to working with all relevant provincial departments to review the report's recommendations and identify the ones "where provincial action may be taken."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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