'We shouldn't get used to crime and violence': Native Council addresses problems past and present

'This here is a token for missing and murdered Indigenous woman,' says  Stephenson Joe. 'She symbolized my mother.' (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)
'This here is a token for missing and murdered Indigenous woman,' says Stephenson Joe. 'She symbolized my mother.' (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)

Mi'kmaw knowledge-keeper Stephenson Joe has been told he's considered one of the lucky ones.

When his Indigenous mother went missing he was able to recover her remains, honour her in a ceremony, and bury her.

"How many more thousands are still missing?" he asked a group of about a dozen people during an event at the Native Council of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown on Tuesday.

"These discussions, like any other discussion in our Indigenous circles, are important.  Knowledge always has to be passed on to the next generation. That's how we have always survived."

It's not history, it's still happening - Fadeke Agboola, Native Council P.E.I.

It's Crime Prevention Week at the Native Council of P.E.I. It's meant to raise awareness about a range of issues, including gender-based violence, elder abuse and missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, men, boys and two-spirit individuals.

"We shouldn't get used to crime and violence. It shouldn't be our way of life," said Fadeke Agboola, the gender-based violence prevention co-ordinator.

"A lot of people still think it is history. It's not history, it's still happening."

Finding solutions

The Native Council of P.E.I. is holding events this week to talk about both the problem and prevention strategies.

The room was still as people shared stories about their experiences with crime or violence. Others asked questions or offered advice.

Native Council of P.E.I. is holding events this week to raise awareness about violence and crime in Island communities. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

"When communities come together with a common goal, solutions that you never thought exist pop up," said Agboola.

Kaelyn Mercer, the tapui'tjitja'amitj or two spirit co-ordinator, said discussions like these are important because they draw attention to the problem so people can work at preventing it in the future.

"I hope to take away a lot of knowledge, especially from the elders that shared and to also be aware for myself and for others around me," she said.

"Sometimes family or loved ones, they just won't really listen to you until an outer source tells them, like, this is wrong ... and we need to help you get out of this."

'Communal effort'

Another event in St. Peters Bay is scheduled for Thursday.

The Native Council hopes these conversations will persist even after Crime Prevention Week is over.

"One person cannot do it. It's a communal effort," said Agboola.

"I would like to see the conversation keep on going, on my part. I would like to be able to come together at least once a month. Let's talk about crime and violence. What's happening, what's changed."

Stephenson Joe said he would like to see more education about Indigenous violence in classrooms.

"The stuff I learned from the Indigenous circles was never taught in schools," he said,

"These types of circles would benefit the non-Indigenous community."

'We're talking about awareness. We're talking about what we think can prevent it. We're talking about resources that are available. We're talking about the mental health,' says Fadeke Agboola, gender-based violence prevention co-ordinator. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

Joe wrapped up the event on Tuesday night with a prayer using his eagle wing fan. On the fan is a small pin of a woman in a red dress, representing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and symbolizing his mother

He said he plans to add another pin in blue.

"It'll represent missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys," said Joe.

"We're all brothers and sisters on this Earth, you know? So let's love and look after one another."