Real victims, real survivors and real women the focus of June 16 conference in Aundeck Omni Kaning

AUNDECK ‘ KANING––Violence against Indigenous women and human trafficking are the issues being confronted at a conference to be held at the Four Directions Complex in Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation (AOK) this Saturday, June 16. The conference will focus on real survivors of violence, real victims of human trafficking and real women who have worked tirelessly to end the violence.

Michelle Atkinson of Sheguiandah First Nation is a survivor. She planted the seed for this conference, explained organizer Jo-Anne Thibodeau Audette. “Michelle Atkinson came to me and said she was ready to tell her story.” Ms. Atkinson is the survivor of human trafficking and mother of the late Cheyenne Fox. Ms. Thibodeau Audette added, “I am proud that she trusted me to do this.”

Presenter Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard is one of those real women who works tirelessly as a victims’ advocate and was recently honoured with a Victim Services Award of Distinction from the Ontario Attorney General’s office for her dedication to addressing issues related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Dr. Lavell-Harvard also received the 2018 Spirit of Barbara Schlifer Award for her dedication to improving the lives of women.

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“We need to protect our women and girls from becoming victims of senseless murders, violence or human trafficking,” said Ms. Thibodeau Audette. “We can’t depend on our justice system. It’s not working for our girls.”

Ms. Thibodeau Audette believes Indigenous women and girls are discriminated against within the justice system. “There is prejudgement,” she said. “But it’s not as if they chose to be human trafficked or chose to live on the streets or chose to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. Nobody chooses to enter the sex trade. They are forced to by poverty and systemic discrimination.”

“We especially want young women and girls to understand that it’s not their fault,” added Ms. Thibodeau Audette. “They need to know if they are abused or treated wrongly, the fault is on the perpetrator and not the victim. They may not even understand or realize they are being victimized.”

Organizers are inviting all women with hand drums that want to sing to attend. The conference will start with a strong women’s song “to give our speakers extra strength,” said Ms. Thibodeau Audette.

A wellness room will be available in case anybody is triggered or experiences emotional trauma, with elder Barb Peltier and social workers from AOK providing support or smudging as needed. Service providers will be j22 offering information and answering questions about what assistance and services are available on the Island. There are door prizes as well.

The conference is sponsored by Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, Sheguiandah First Nation, Noojmowin Teg Health Centre and the Anishinabek Nation Family Well Being Program. It is open to anybody and everybody. There is no cost to attend.

Registration will open at 1 pm and the presentations will start after 2:30 pm. For more information, call Jo-Anne Thibodeau Audette at 705-368-2228.