Equay-Wuk among three Family Information Liaison Units in Ontario
Tyllore Martelle - Staff Writer
In September 2016 the government of Canada launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). The MMIWG inquiry is completely independent from all provincial and territorial governments. It was formed in response to calls for action made by Indigenous families. The MMIWG is comprised of five different commissions across the country that work together to examine and report on the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
More recently, four units known as Family Information Liaison Units (FILU) were set up across the province. FILUs are intended to provide families access to information from various government organizations about the loss of their loved ones. The FILUs also assist families with their traumas in a culturally safe, accepting, respectful, and non-judgmental manner. Overseen by the unit in Toronto, there are additional FILUs in Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Sioux Lookout.
Equay-Wuk Women’s Group is the Sioux Lookout contact for the local unit. Equay-Wuk’s mandate is to empower Indigenous women, children, and families that live in Sioux Lookout. With outreach to 31 First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario, Equay-Wuk is available to over 18,000 people.
FILUs serve the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in several ways. Some duties they are committed to involve gathering case-specific information from police investigations, court proceedings, and other government processes such as coroner’s investigations or reports.
The FILU relays this information to families truthfully and confidentially. They also connect families with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, healers, as well as offering trauma counselling and other support. In addition, the FILUs can collaborate with similar units in different territories and provinces in order to gather more information about a family’s case.
The FILU employees are members of Indigenous communities and are equipped with years of front line experience in order to provide families with the greatest amount of information. They are specifically trained to cater to the unique needs of a family whose loved one was subjected to violence.
Families can access the FILU services regardless of whether or not they’re a participant with MMIWG. The FILU’s team lead, Terry Swan, is available to be contacted in the event a family is not within accessible distance to one of the field offices. A family can call the toll free number 1-844-888-8610 to arrange for FILU workers to travel to their location.
The local FILU family liaison worker is Shauna Pitawanakwat, who can be reached at the Equay-Wuk building at 16 Fourth Avenue N, by phone at 737-4877, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.