With ceaseless efforts to acknowledge, honour, and find missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG), the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has created an online interactive map to track these deaths.
“The phenomenon of the disappearance of such a large number of women is a genocide,” said Lynne Groulx, the CEO of NWAC. “It’s very important to try and capture the data. This is part of our contribution, an extension of our work that started a long time ago.”
This initiative is titled “Safe Passage,” and the goal is to document accurate data of Indigenous women that have gone missing and start moving toward answers.
Answers such as: Why were they murdered? Who are they? Where are they? Who’s responsible?
Groulx said gathering data can go a long way in answering these inquiries, and although they once did this manually, they have now pivoted toward a more technological approach.
“We thought maybe we can use a website, and a map of some kind, where people could go in and put information,” she said. “This may be more proactive.”
The chief executive officer explained that to add data to the system, one must fill out a form on the website, and the NWAC’s legal council will examine the case. As there is a multitude of experts working at the association that has been investigating this issue for years, their methodology is thorough, safe, and confidential.
“We have a little over 300 cases right now, and you can see a concentration in certain areas. The idea is to find out where the hotspots are,” she said.
Groulx explained that this could be used as a tool to alert the police or the government about certain areas and highlight systemic issues that need attention. She explained that the power of this resource should not be understated.
“It may have prevented someone from becoming a missing and murdered person. Or it may have helped to resolve a case.”
Along with collecting data, the Safe Passage website provides access to resources and educational tools. For example, for those in the trucking or hospital industry, training is offered to be able to acknowledge and prevent common incidents. Further, NWAC wants the website to become a resource for researchers and academics to gather credible knowledge and statistics. “We want to make it a one-stop-shop, where you can get credible information.”
The technological aspect of the map is quite complex, and with the help of their partner, Nanos Research, and others, they are continuing to assure accuracy in their data.
And although the launch of this project has been a success, NWAC is always looking for feedback and ways to improve. “We have decided this is our phase one,” said Groulx.
With the recent confirmations of Indigenous children’s graves found all over Canada, Groulx cannot help but see a parallel with the lost children and lost women and girls.
“For a lot of people, it’s not until the physical evidence came out, and even despite the thousands and thousands of testimonies, they still doubted that this was a genocide,” she said. “And if they can’t get that evidence, then we’re going to find it ourselves.”