Extension of national inquiry opposed by Cywink family

Sonya Cywink

BIRCH ISLAND—It has been 24 years since Sonya Nadine Mae Cywink went missing from her London home and was found dead at the Southwold Earthworks in Elgin County, but the hurt and trauma felt by her family has not diminished over the intervening years and the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) has in many ways refreshed those old wounds for her family. News of the request to the federal government for a two-year extension to their mandate, made by the inquiry, has many in the family fuming. They oppose the extension.

Sonya’s sister Maggie Cywink made it clear to The Expositor that she was speaking strictly as a family member and on behalf of her family, an important distinction as Ms. Cywink is currently employed by the Ontario Attorney General’s office in a liaison capacity dealing with the issues surrounding MMIWG. She in no way purported to be speaking in that capacity and carefully advised that she was only speaking as a family member of one of the MMIWGT2S (the extended version of the group of Indigenous people that includes the two-spirited, and transgendered, those with different gender identities than they were labelled with at birth). “It is a difficult challenge balancing between my job and my family members,” she said. Her position as a special advisor can be extremely delicate.

“I was one of the writers of the letter (see page 5 letters section, an open letter to Carolyn Bennett),” she acknowledged. The letter Ms. Cywink references is backed by more than 200 family members of the missing and murdered, as well as the gay and transgendered Indigenous peoples who have been persecuted, murdered or simply disappeared without a trace.

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While the open letter covers a number of issues, the impetus behind opposition to the extension of the MMIWG inquiry is fairly straightforward.

In addition to prolonging the suffering and trauma being experienced by families during the inquiry process, Ms. Cywink points out that throwing another $53 million at the issue would, in the opinion of herself, her family and a significant number of the relatives of the MMIWGT2S largely be a waste of money.

“There have been countless inquiries and commissions, literally hundreds of reports that have already been done,” she said. “That money would be better spent following through on the recommendations contained in those earlier studies.” By tackling the underlying issues that have already been long identified, the numbers of MMIWGT2S being murdered or going missing could stop climbing.

Ms. Cywink said that she dismisses the claims by the prime minister and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolynn Bennett that they must remain at arms length from the inquiry commission. “They appointed the commissioners,” she said. “They are involved every step of the way. Saying otherwise is just a convenient copout.”

Ms. Cywink, and the other families co-writing the letter do not believe that their voices are being heard. Previous letters the families have sent to the prime minister and the minister of Indian Affairs have remained unanswered, without even an acknowledgement of their receipt.

The families do not call for the shut down of the inquiry, unlike some other voices in the Indigenous communities. “No, we just want them to be held to their timeline,” she said. “They should take what they have gathered and do their reports. If they need more time to do those reports, fine, give it to them.” She would prefer the inquiry report in September of 2018. Delays inherent in another two years of hearings are unconscionable, she said. “Who is going to be there to pick up the pieces? How are they going to help the families?”

“Stop putting families in harm’s way,” Ms. Cywink said, alleging that the safeguards in place for traumatized family members fall far short of what is needed.”

As to what the government should do instead, Ms. Cywink noted that “we gave them lots of options in our letters.”

Their solution for a next step would be to take the $53.8 million or so that would be applied to an inquiry extension and put it use implementing the recommendations and reconciliation.

“That’s the bottom line,” she said.

Family of Shelley Joseph:

Aileen Joseph, Mohawk, Wolf Clan, Six Nations Grand River Territory, mother of Shelley Joseph

Sheena Joseph, Mohawk, Wolf Clan, Six Nations Grand River Territory, daughter of Shelley Joseph

Alexa Joseph, Six Nations, Tuscarora Wolf Clan, granddaughter of Shelly Joseph

Gavin Joseph, Six Nations, Tuscarora Wolf Clan, grandson of Shelly Joseph

 

Family of Paula Joy Martin:

Chasity Martin, Turtle Clan Six Nations, niece; Randy Martin, Six Nations, brother; Karen Locke, Six Nations, sister; Chad Martin, Six Nations, nephew; Randee Joy Martin, Six Nations, niece; Bradley Kenneth Hill, Six Nations, son; Krystal Gayle Martin, Six Nations, niece; Chaley Elizabeth Martin, Six Nations, great-niece; Chase Everett Martin, Six Nations, great-nephew; Josie Nepinak, family member and executive director of Awo Taan Healing Lodge

 

Family of Tashina General: Denise General, Cayuga Nation, Wolf Clan, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, mother of Tashina General; Madison General, brother; Mel General, grandfather; Kelly General, aunt; Chad General, uncle; Scott General, uncle; Tara General, aunt; Eric Hill, friend; Beverley Jacobs, Kanienkehaka, Bear Clan, lawyer, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Cousin of Tashina General

 

Family of Sonya Nadine Mae Cywink, MMIWGT2S:

Maggie Cywink, sister; Alex Cywink, brother, Anastasia Cywink, sister; O. Naomi Abotossaway, sister; Scott Madahbee, nephew; Jordi Jacko, nephew; Lee Jacko, nephew; Wyatt Jacko, nephew; Len Riley, nephew; Mark Abotossaway, nephew; Ozzy Madahbee, brother-in-law; Tom Wopperer, brother-in-law; friends and loved ones of Sonya Nadine Mae Cywink, Laura Heidenheim, Emma Heidenheim, Linda Heidenheim, Eric Heidenheim, Adam Gualiteri, Melissa Gonzalez, Antonietta Emmanuel, Joshua Howe, Michael Rebellato, Josephine Tse, Shanna McCutcheon, Tate Brombal, Candice Ing, Asia Aoki, Sarah, MacGregor, Rejeanne Allaire, K. Fran Davis, Six Nations member

 

Elaine Belanger-Ostergaard, mother of Brenda Wolfe

Danielle Ewenin, Kawacatoose First Nation

Lillian Ewenin, Kawacatoose First Nation

 

Family of Hylena Rivera:

Linda John, mother; Jillian Isaacs, sister; Renee Hess, grandmother; Karen John, maternal auntie; Rhonda Powless, maternal auntie

 

Family of Charity Keesic:

Leona Davis, mother; Josh Keesic, brother; Vincent Keesic, brother; Tyrese Keesic, son

 

Joyce Carpenter, momma of Patricia Carpenter (Trish)

 

Bridget Tolley, daughter of Gladys Tolley

 

Families of Sisters In Spirit (FSIS)

 

Family of Rose Blackned:

Silas Blackned, son, Cynthia Blackned, sister

 

Maxine Goforth, mother of Kelly Goforth; Ruth ScalpLock, Siksika Nation

 

Sheila North Wilson, grand chief, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak

 

Ava Hill, chief, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory

 

Cathy L. Clause, Six Nations, WWOSSN Committee Member

 

Terri Monture, Staff Representative, Canadian Media Guild. Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River. Childhood friend of Shelley Joseph.

 

Joanne Dubois, Six Nations, WWOSSN Committee Member

 

Lori Harris, Six Nations, Mohawk Bear Clan, WWOSSN Committee Member

 

Family of Tanya Hill:

Kristen Hill, Six Nations; Sonya Hill, Six Nations; Rhonda Hill-Maracle, Six Nations, mother;

Kiana Hill, Six Nations; Kale Lee Hill, Six Nations; Gwen Styres, Six Nations, aunt; Crystal Styres, Six Nations, Shaylin Styres, Six Nations; Michael Cooper, Six Nations; Derek Williams, Six Nations; Joe Maracle, Six Nations; Joe Maracle Jr., Six Nations; Leroy Hill, Six Nations; Arlene Hill, Six Nations;

Alex Kedoh Hill, Six Nations

 

Family of Josephine Thompson:

Amelia H. Thompson, niece

 

Family of Josephine Chakasim:

Rachel Chakasim, sister; Amelia H. Thompson, niece

 

Mary Gagnon, sister of Germaine Gagnon

 

Family of Pauline (Wesley) Louttit:

Joanne Louttit, daughter, Attiwapiskat; Ray Louttit, Attiwapiskat

 

Family of Simone Sanderson:

Betty-ann Sanderson, grandmother; Oliver Sanderson, grandfather

 

Laura OoChoo, daughter of Elsie Marie Oochoo

 

Lenny Genereaux, nephew of Vivian Cada

 

Family of Jennifer Catcheway:

Bernice Catcheway, mother; Wilfred Catcheway, father;

 

Laura LaCrosse, daughter of Deborah Sloss-Clarke

 

Family of Pamela Holopainen:

Vanessa Brousseau, sister; Renee Holopainen, cousin

 

Family of Adeline Legarde:

Wanda Legarde, daughter; Juliette Legarde, daughter

 

Family of Shirley and Dawn Ashawasega:

Elwood Ashawasega, son and brother; Tammy Ashawasega, daughter and sister

 

Family Members of Katherine Loone:

Alice Loone, mother; Stacey Scott, sister; Sabrina Loone, sister; Christine Ashamock, sister; Derek Loone, brother

 

Family of Elaine Vawn LaForme:

Lynn LaForme, sister; Jessica LaForme, niece; Diane Johnson, sister; Linda White, brother; Barry LaForme, brother; Glen LaForme, brother; Nadine LaForme, niece; Joshua LaForme, nephew; Norma White, niece; Tosha Yellow, niece; Shawn LaForme, Richard LaForme

 

Krista Shore, Nehiyaw Iswewak- Peepeekisis First Nation, daughter of Barbara Ann Shore

 

Staci Duchene-Six Nations, Mohawk. Family member and advocate for MMIWG

 

Isaac Murdoch, Serpent River First Nation, family member, activist

 

Alex Wilson, Idle No More, Opaskwayak Cree Nation

 

Sarah Hunt, Kwagu’ł (Kwakwaka’wakw) scholar, activist, relation

 

Natalie Clark, scholar, activist Indigenous girls group facilitator and violence counsellor

 

Jeffery McNeil, Thompson Rivers University

 

Maria Campbell, author, community activist

 

Julie Kaye, community-based researcher, University of Saskatchewan

 

Muriel Stanley Venne, president and founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women

 

Ellen Gabriel, Kanehsatà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka Nation and Indigenous Human rights activist

 

Christi Belcourt, advocate/mom/daughter, Espanola

 

Audrey Huntley, No More Silence

 

Alison C. Recollet-Simon, Bear Clan, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory

 

Colleen Dell, University of Saskatchewan

 

Callie Cochrane, Métis Lawyer

 

Arlene Sams, Edmonton

Nellie Carlson, Indian Rights for Indian Women

 

Family of Shelley May Anderson:

Myrna Anderson, mother; Judith Anderson, sister; Keith Anderson, brother;

 

Melanie Dene, cousin of Shelly Tannis Dene

 

Vivian (Tootsie) Tuccaro, mother of Amber Alyssa Tuccaro

 

Family of Renee Neganiwina:

Darlene Neganiwina, mother; Lenny Genereux, cousin

 

Family of Bella Laboucan-McLean:

Billy Joe Laboucan, father; Sharla Peltier, friend; Stan Peltier, friend

 

 

Mary-Annie Blackned, sister of Rose Blackned

 

Family of Deborah Sloss-Clarke:

Mary Lou Smoke, sister; Dan Smoke, brother-in-law

 

Maggie Cywink, family of Melissa Maureen Nicholson

 

Family of Delaine Corrina Copenace:

Anita Ross, mom; Dayna Copenace, twin sister; Darian Copenace, sister; Lori-Delaney Copenace, sister; Aires Delaine Christopher Blackhawk, nephew

 

Family and Friends of Delaine Copenace:

Floranda Kootenay, family member, Stoney Nakoda; M. Mickilus, L.M. Laramie-Belcourt, family member, looking for Kathleen Noah

 

Elaine V. Antone, survivor

 

Ms. Denise Aquash, aunt of Katrina Kiyosh

 

Family and Friends Supporters of Sonya Nadine Mae Cywink:

Tammy Madahbee, niece; Madison Madahbee, great nephew; Nancy Cooper, friend; Kathy Roque – friend; John McCauley, friend; Kimmy Moody-Bosse, friend; Chantal Perrault-Diehl, supporter; Andrea Cessna, supporter; Lance Copegog, deputy youth chief of the Beausoleil First Nation Youth Council

 

Pamela Palmater – Mi’kmaq, Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University

 

Stolen Sisters & Brothers Awareness Movement

 

Odelle Pike, Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network

 

Thohahente Kim Weaver, Turtle Clan, Kanièn’kehà:ka, from Kenhtéke

 

Chris Cutler, Supporter of MMIWG

 

Deron Ahsén:nase Douglas – Bear Clan, Kahnawà:ke Kanien’kehá:ka Nation

 

Robert Gendron, ally, Treaty 1, Metis Homeland

 

Katherine McCarthy, Mi’kmaq, sister and friend

 

WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre

 

Michael Mantha, MPP critic Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

 

Billy Mersasty

 

Diane Osawamick

 

Eriel Deranger, executive director, Indigenous Climate Action

 

Stephen Stewart, friend and supporter

 

John Clarke, Organizer, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

 

Vanessa Watts, Six Nations of the Grand River

 

 

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