The Manitoba government has rejected a plea for a 24-hour safe space for LGBTQS2 women, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls was told Thursday.
“We gave them a proposal for $600,000. They said ‘No,’” said Alaya McIvor, a member of Winnipeg’s trans community.
McIvor voiced concern the inquiry would also close the door to vulnerable people and its recommendations would be ignored.
Commissioner Michele Audette admitted she shared that fear but said she would do everything in her power to overcome government inertia.
“Canada now cannot be ostriches (and say) it doesn’t happen in my yard. It does happen in our territory,” she said of the litany of violence she’s heard from families here this week.
“This inquiry will stop everything? No. But it’s a tool, a tool to make sure.”
McIvor, who told the commission about the brutal murder of her cousin on Tuesday, was back to share her own story as a sex trafficking survivor. She said her family supported her transition but many others aren’t so lucky.
“They’re shamed and taunted out of their communities,” she said in an interview later. “They come to the city where they’re exploited.”
McIvor said that’s what happened to her for 20 years before she got out. So she knows the value of a ‘safe space’, she said.
“The outreach in Winnipeg is available between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. But we know women go missing and are murdered between midnight and 8 a.m.,” she said.
McIvor said the Sexually Exploited Youth Community Coalition wants to establish a centre run by Indigenous survivors, but the Pallister government turned them down.
This week of public and private hearings with commissioners in Winnipeg is during what’s known as the inquiry’s family phase. It plans a community and institutional phase, as well, to hear from agencies and police.
While, the commissioners have their first report due to the federal government Nov. 1., they have not heard back yet on their request for an extension of their two-year mandate.
Audette said none of them want their work to gather dust on a shelf as has happened with previous federal commissions.
“To make sure that they stay alive that must be the concern of every commissioner,” she said. “That’s my biggest, biggest – and I’m not lying – fear. Honouring the truth and giving life to that truth. I want to make sure they will do it,” said Audette.
Meanwhile, demand to meet with commissioners has boomed. The inquiry was expecting 75 families and got 120 want to speak instead. It opened a second, public hearing room this week and announced it will send statement takers to Norway House for three days.
More hearings could happen in the northern city of Thompson, Man.