Unearthing Justices

Drs. Vicki Chartrand, Genner Llanes-Ortiz, and Alex Miltsov of Bishop’s University’s Sociology Department are working in partnership with Indigenous communities to organize, analyze, and mobilize Indigenous-led and Indigenous-based resources and supports to address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S+) persons.  

They started the partnership because the existing resources and supports coming from Indigenous communities is largely invisible and unknown, yet vital and central in creating meaningful social change. The objectives of the Unearthing Justice partnership (UJP) are fourfold: 

  1. To centre and build on Indigenous families’ and communities’ existing capacities and strengths in addressing the murders and disappearances; 
  1. To make visible the important work that already exists in Indigenous communities for policy and program innovation and potential funding; 
  1. To facilitate connections and networks between Indigenous families and communities involved in the MMIWG2S+ people work; 
  1. To establish a digital-based infrastructure of resources and supports to address violence against MMIWG2S+ people. 

The Unearthing Justices Partnership (UJP) is heeding the Calls to Justice made by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG, 2019), which concluded that the long-term and ongoing murders and disappearances of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people is genocide. The Inquiry’s final report made 231 calls for justice – termed legal imperatives – directed towards Canada’s governments, institutions, social service providers, industries, and the public. 

While the violence against MMIWG2S+ people is well-documented, there has been less consideration of how Indigenous families and communities have actively navigated the terrain where justice continues to be absent, elusive, or invasive, if not violent. The goal of the UJP is to partner with Indigenous family and community members to collaboratively share and showcase Indigenous-led and Indigenous-based resources and supports to address the murders and disappearances.  

Dr. Alex Miltsov describes the collaborative design of the project as prioritizing people instead of simply “extracting” information from participants – the priority is to make decisions in conversation and collaboration with Indigenous partners. For example, one of the community members of the project provided cultural training relevant to the project. Indigenous members of the Bishop’s community have also been involved in lending support, including Vicky Boldo, Bishop’s University’s Special Advisor for Indigenous Student Support. The project brings together the academic research and community-engagement side of Bishop’s with the social and civic values of the student body. 

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