Tree of Hope project aims to bring closure to families of missing and murdered Indigenous women

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Toronto – In the coming weeks, four giant trees in Thunder Bay, Ont. Thousands of red beacons will be lit, as part of an ongoing project to raise awareness and funds for the disappearance and murder of indigenous women and girls [MMIWG].

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It’s called Tree of Hope, and was originally conceived a few years ago by Thunder Bay Police Const. Sherlyn Bordeaux, who is on a mission to change the way her department approaches and handles these matters.

Bordeaux Pays is a member of the Platt First Nation, and with 28 years in the Thunder Bay Police Force, she has been instrumental in bridging the gap between First Nations people and the police.

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She told Granthshala News that she hopes to have a “federal task force, an enforceable task force, with the MMIWG” soon.

People can donate to the Tree of Hope Project To sponsor a light bulb on the trees that represents one of the more than 5,000 indigenous women and girls who are still missing. This money will encourage people to come forward with any information that can lead to these cases being arrested or solved.

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Crime Stoppers currently offers a $2,000 reward to those who call with a tip that leads to an arrest.

“The original idea was to increase the payout to $50,000,” Bordeaux said.

If someone comes forward to Crime Stoppers with a tip that leads to an arrest, they will receive $2,000 as well as $48,000 raised by donations from Tree of Hope, which is managed by Bordeaux in a separate bank account. goes. Individuals who assist with the investigation and assist with the arrest will receive authorization from Crime Stoppers that will allow them to access the donated $48,000. still anonymous.

But Bordeaux found that this amount was not sufficient.

“You know what they take advantage of women in human trafficking? Over $200,000,” she said. […] Is anyone willing to come forward for $50,000 when their identity needs to be changed?

To solve these matters, every little detail can help.

“Sometimes the police are just waiting for one or two small pieces of evidence that can convict someone. As small as this evidence may be to someone else, it is too big for the police service,” Bordeaux said.

Relations between the indigenous community and the Thunder Bay Police Force have long been strained. In 2018, a report by Ontario’s police watchdog found widespread racism in the police force and found that when investigators were investigating Indigenous deaths, there was misogyny, stereotyping and discrimination against victims, leading to Inappropriate investigations often occurred.

Coralie McGuire, executive director of the Ontario Native Women’s Association, says tackling discrimination is needed to protect Indigenous women and girls.

“We need to focus on breaking this generalized violence that is perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls everywhere,” McGuire said. “Because it’s so common that people don’t even know they’re doing it.”

In 2007, Danita Bigegel went missing in Regina. She was 22 years old and is still missing. There was no media coverage of his disappearance. His case also echoes in thousands of other cases across the country.

In Tree of Hope however, he and many others are far from forgotten.

“By lighting the trees by us, here we are ready for reconciliation, and so we have offered an olive branch,” said Bordeaux.

There is talk of expanding this initiative to other police forces – a poignant reminder of the cooperation and hope needed to resolve these cases.

With files from Alexandra May Jones

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