Saskatoon plans to open Matriarch’s ‘aunties’ office

Establishing an Independent Office of the Representative of the Matriarchs is being proposed by Saskatoon’s city council that aims to support Indigenous women and girls, and two spirit people. The Matriarch or “auntie’ will assist IWG2S and act as an auntie does in giving advice to young women.

“Indigenous women, girls and two spirit people know they can go to an auntie with anything, and an auntie will provide advice; they will advocate for them within the systems and challenge the system itself. They do their best to protect them and keep them safe,” said Director of Indigenous Initiatives Melissa Cote.

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The term “matriarch” was chosen since aunties serve as second parents in Indigenous families. The aunties provide additional advice and emotional support to their relatives.

Last year, the city established the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and Two Spirit Advisory Group that is composed of an Elder, and representatives from the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan, Iskwewuk Ewichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), Les Filles de Madelaine/CUMFI, OUTSaskatoon, Saskatoon Public Schools, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, Saskatoon Tribal Council, Saskatchewan Health Authority, Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Saskatchewan Inc., Saskatoon Police Service, Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatoon Fire Department and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The multi-organization advisory group was to assist in the selection of a consultant, share information and collaborate, and provide guidance and advice once a report was developed. The city council, in a July 2019 resolution, wanted the administration to review the report on a national inquiry on MMIWG.

Cote said, once the council approved creating the ORM, the office would make sure IWG2S who needed help receive the proper services from them in providing advice and guidance to their lives. The city, advisory group, and other partners would determine the process of selecting the ‘aunties.’

“Most of all, the Auntie will be there to let them know that they are loved and that they matter.”

Hope Restored Canada were the consultants that prepared the report where they saw the critical role of Indigenous women in the past in order to come up with action plans that can be used in the future. The city council’s Governance and Priorities Committee will present the report on Monday, July 19.

Cote said the report gives emphasis that advice from every auntie in a family needs to be heard.

“At a very basic level, every Indigenous woman, girl and two spirited person needs safe spaces: a place to sleep; a bathroom to use in privacy; a kitchen in which to feed themselves and family. These are basic needs; a human right and an action people can get behind.”

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