Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: The cost of doing nothing to prevent tragedy

By Marina Puzyreva and John Loxley,

As the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) continues, a new study looks at the problems of reactive government policy on MMIWG in Manitoba.
The complex impacts on family members of MMIWG are examined in Cost of Doing Nothing: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This study is a preliminary estimate of the cost of doing nothing to prevent many Indigenous women and girls from going missing and being murdered. It gives an insight into the emotional journeys of the families left behind. It also assesses the current financial cost of dealing with this tragedy based on calculations drawn from the literature and estimates of the number of MMIWG in Manitoba.
In cooperation with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Families First Initiative, this study collected and analyzed the testimonies of 37 family members and friends of MMIWG in Winnipeg, the Pas, Thompson and Sagkeeng First Nation, covering a total of 14 cases. In Manitoba, the discussion of this issue is especially relevant since the province continues to have the highest percentage of Indigenous people – 16.7 percent -and a high proportion of MMIWG.
The study shows that not providing opportunities for Indigenous women to succeed in life and not helping Indigenous families to obtain justice in the case of a horrendous wrongdoing such as murder is not only a human rights issue, but also a problem with economic consequences. The study combines qualitative analysis of families’ experiences and a numerical representation of the cost of doing nothing, wherever applicable. It recognizes that due to the complexities of the tragedy of MMIWG, we cannot “sum up” the experiences of the families and communities in a number.
The analysis in Cost of Doing Nothing reveals that at least $7.0 million was spent in 2014 in direct government expenditures in Manitoba for both missing and murder cases, at an average of $330,000/ murder case in immediate expenses on police, court, funeral, counselling, etc. To put the total estimate in perspective, it is more than twice the annual $3.5 million operating budget of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, a political advocacy body mandated through the Chiefs-in-Assembly, to devise collective and common political strategies and mechanisms for coordinated action by First Nations and their organizations.
Families of MMIWG are impacted on multiple levels: emotional, physical, financial, psychological, and social. Some practical problems like dealing with official agencies can have a profound emotional impact, which in turn is likely to affect physical health. Leaving work because of the physical pain and illnesses and seeking medical treatment are some of the many factors that may subsequently impact families financially. One participant shared that she and her family had spent at least $127,000 in total over a period of five years since the loved one’s passing and this did not include any search expenses, which can be huge.
Some expenses can be recovered through the Compensation for Victims of Crime Program. However, an applicant is not eligible for compensation if the victim, in this case a murdered woman, had a serious criminal record. This has negatively affected some families of murdered women. It is important to make sure the people who are left behind are able to get the supports they need, including compensation from the Victims of Crime Program without further re-traumatization and impoverishment. Furthermore, while partial coverage of costs is available for the relatives of murdered victims, very few resources are available to assist families of missing women and girls.
Cost of Doing Nothing documents important but commonly overlooked issues related to the tragedy of MMIWG: lack of clarity on police procedures and investigation standards, the lack of opportunities to heal through Indigenous spiritual and cultural traditions, and lack of closure for the families of missing women. The social stigmatization of loved ones who may have led “risky lifestyles” reduces public concerns for their loss and puts further psychological pressure on families. Moreover, the children of MMIWG become a responsibility for remaining family members. All of these factors impose direct and indirect financial costs on families.
Apart from the devastating effect on family members and friends left behind, the issue of MMIWG also has an adverse impact on government. As the result of this tragedy, government agencies bear the costs of administering police investigations, the costs of the judicial system, of court proceedings, preventative measures, and the like. These costs can be substantial – $675 million annually in Canada according to a 2009 study 1.
Today we are seeing an increased and long-overdue attention to the issue of MMIWG with a number of new initiatives underway. The overriding emphasis of government policy must be to take action to reduce the cases of MMIWG, whatever its cost. There is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that doing nothing to prevent this violence carries its own huge costs in both financial and human terms.

1 An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Violent Victimization in Canada, 2009 (2014) by Josh Hoddenbagh, Ting Zhang and Susan McDonald

Marina Puzyreva and John Loxley are the co-authors of Cost of Doing Nothing: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The report was done in partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ Families First Initiative and funded by the Manitoba Research Alliance via the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Prove Yourself! Barriers to accessing ID for low-income Manitobans

By Ellen Smirl

Government-issued identification (ID) is essential to gain access to a wide range of government entitlements, commercial services and financial systems. Lack of ID on the other hand, represents a critical barrier that prevents low-income Manitobans from accessing these services and benefits, and ultimately results in further marginalization and deepening poverty. A new study, Access to Identification for Low-Income Manitobans researches what can be done to address these challenges. Read More

Climate Plan Fails on Carbon Tax Basics

By Mark Hudson

First published in the Winnipeg Free Press Oct. 5, 2017

A draft “Climate and Green Plan Town Hall Toolkit” circulated within the Manitoba government proposes a flat $25 carbon tax. While this is only a discussion document, and not yet policy, it’s a worrying sign of what the much-trumpeted “Made-in-Manitoba” climate policy might look like: a piece of largely-pointless window-dressing. Read More

Amy Goodman fills the house Sept 29th

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! Stories of Democracy Resistance and Hope presentation at Knox United Church, Friday Sept 29th.

See story in the Manitoban here.

Photos by Leif Norman

Public funding for education in Manitoba

Jon Young and Brian O’Leary

High quality public schooling is an expensive commitment. In Manitoba the operating costs for the 2015-16 school year was $2.24 billion, which translates to an average per pupil operating cost of $12,537 (Manitoba Education and Training, 2017). In May of this year the Minister of Education and Training, Ian Wishart, announced plans to initiate a full-scale, long-term, review of education funding in the province. This short Fastfacts seeks to contribute to the review by suggesting three overarching themes to guide it: the importance of education as a public good; the importance of avoiding any drift towards a two-tiered public school system in the province; and, the importance of spending available resources wisely. 2

Read More

Cutting taxes is not the answer

By Molly McCracken

Last week I was chatting with my uncle, a retiree on a fixed income, about the health service cuts at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. He said “if the deficit is $83 million, why doesn’t everyone just paid a bit more in taxes and then cuts would not be required?” With consideration for one’s ability to pay, why not indeed?

Read More

Concordia Hospital ER Closure: bad news for persons with disabilities and seniors


In April of 2017, it was announced that there would be dramatic changes in the way that healthcare would be delivered in Manitoba. One of the biggest users of the healthcare system are marginalized populations who live in poverty especially persons with disabilities and seniors.  The changes that were announced include the closures of Seven Oaks, Concordia, Victoria Hospital emergency rooms and Misericordia urgent care centre in Winnipeg. With plans for the Seven Oaks and Victoria Hospital emergency rooms to be converted into urgent care centres.   As a person with a disability and Elmwood resident, I immediately had concerns regarding how this short-sighted decision will have a detrimental impact on marginalized communities in North East Winnipeg.  In my area people living in poverty which includes persons with disabilities face many barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare.  The changes announced further complicate the barriers to the medical system that people living in poverty and with disabilities encounter on a daily basis.

As a resident of Northeast Winnipeg, the closure of the Concordia Hospital emergency room will have a detrimental effect on my community even more so for seniors and persons with disabilities.   A disproportionate number of persons with disabilities and seniors live in poverty who struggle to afford things such as food, rent and transportation which are critical for daily survival.   The closet options for my community will be to access the urgent care centre at Seven Oaks Hospital and the emergency rooms at the Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface hospital or the Grace Hospital which would take anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour from Northeast Winnipeg. As the boundaries of my community include the Canadian National main rail line at the south and the Red River to the West getting to these options can be extremely difficult especially in rush hour which can delay a person’s commute time.

Handi-Transit users suffer even more especially due to the regulations which stipulate that transportation must be arranged 24 hours before their scheduled appointment.  In the evenings, especially late at night when the Handi-transit call centre (call center closes at 10:00 pm) is closed it would be very difficult arrange accessible transportation in the middle of the night especially during an Emergency. Persons living in poverty struggle to find the financial resources to afford the bus especially when someone needs medical attention and is forced to go to either a hospital emergency room or an urgent care centre outside of our area.

It is quite clear that the most vulnerable populations in our society will be detrimentally impacted by the changes announced to the delivery of healthcare within Manitoba and Winnipeg.

Carlos Sosa is a disability rights activist in Winnipeg




Amy Goodman – Democracy Now! Friday Sept 29, 2017

Award-winning journalist to share “Stories of Democracy, Resistance and Hope”

Amy Goodman

Friday September 29, 2017

Doors 7:00 pm; Program 8:00 pm

Knox United Church

400 Edmonton Stre

Wheelchair accessible

WINNIPEG — The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Manitoba (CCPA-MB) welcomes award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, to Winnipeg for a community speaking engagement Friday, September 29, 2017 at Knox United Church (400 Edmonton St. | Doors: 7PM • Program: 8PM).

Entitled “Stories of Democracy, Resistance and Hope,” Amy Goodman’s evening talk will illuminate and recount her personal experiences as a journalist and organizer with citizen/grassroots-based movements — these, whom daily confront and resist repressive governments and regimes in support of social, economic and climate justice. For example, Goodman has been on the ground covering stories of police brutality and racial profiling in Ferguson Missouri, the Occupy Wall Street protests and the East Timor massacre in 1991. In 2016, Goodman was arrested while covering protests of the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota. The charges, which were condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists, were ultimately dismissed.

Amy Goodman is an American broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter and author of six books. Since 1996, Goodman has hosted Democracy Now!: a daily, independent, award-winning news program broadcast on public radio, satellite television across the world. Goodman is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gandhi Peace Award for “a significant contribution to the promotion of enduring international peace,” the 1998 George Polk Award (with Jeremy Scahill) for investigative reporting on Chevron’s role in Nigeria’s dictatorship, and the 1993 Robert F Kennedy Prize for International Reporting (with Allan Nairn) for coverage of the East Timor independence movement and Santa Cruz Massacre.

Amy Goodman, David Goodman and Denis Moynihan recently published “Democracy Now!: 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America”. This New York Times Bestseller will be available for sale at the event.

Ticket information:

General admission: $20 (amygoodmanwpg.eventbrite.ca; policyfix.ca, McNally Robinson Booksellers, University of Manitoba Answers and University of Winnipeg Info Booth.

Ticket and post-talk reception with Amy Goodman $100 (includes $50 tax deductible receipt from CCPA)

Limited number of reduced rate tickets are available for those whom which cost is a barrier. Please call 204-927-3209 for availability.

Thank you to our event sponsors:

CKUW 95.9FM, Fernwood Publishing, Rabble.ca, 101.5 UMFM and the University of Winnipeg.




For more information or media requests regarding the event please contact Molly McCracken, Director of CCPA Manitoba at 204.927.3200.



Social Impacts Bonds and the Financing of Child Welfare

Presentation by Dr. John Loxley

Thursday August 31

Doors open at 11:30

Presentation, Q & A 12:00 – 1:15

Millennium Library

RSVP to ccpamb@policyalternatives.ca or call 204-927-3200



The $100 Million Question

First published in the Winnipeg Free Press Friday July 14, 2017
By Lynne Fernandez and Ian Hudson

In March of 2017, the Premier claimed that for every one per cent the province lowered (or didn’t raise) wages for 120,000 provincial public sector workers, it would save $100 million. This simple calculation provides grist for Bill 28, The Public Services Sustainability Act which mandates all those who employ provincial public sector workers to hold future increases to zero per cent for the first two years of a new contract, no more than 0.75 per cent for the third year, and no more than 1.0 per cent for the fourth. Read More