TORONTO – A fundraising gala for the future Thunder Woman Healing Lodge was held at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on Monday. The event was co-ordinated by the Toronto Aboriginal Social Services Council (TASSC) and the Toronto Doctors Lions Club, with Muskrat Magazine..
Featured acts were J-Rez (Jerry Bigcanoe), Gary LaRocca, and Digging Roots. J-Rez stated that he came out to support the cause and volunteer his time to share some good music. Gary LaRocca said he wanted to support indigenous women in general, especially those involved in the legal system that have gone through tremendous hardships. “If I were to dedicate tonight, it would be for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that our government has done nothing about,” LaRocca said.
Christa Big Canoe, legal director at Aboriginal Legal Services and one of the organizers for the event, stated that “one of the biggest needs we see is aboriginal women coming back into the community after incarceration without the programming and options that they need to succeed.” Big Canoe also said that indigenous inmates aren’t currently given the tools they need for successful re-integration while still incarcerated. Big Canoe says there is a need for holistic indigenous-run correctional services driven by the indigenous community.
The website for the Thunder Woman Healing Lodge says that they intend to be a hub for incarcerated indigenous women to re-learn how to “walk in balance’ according to culturally appropriate teachings in an attempt to help indigenous women to “heal themselves from suffering systemic and personal harm in a safe environment”
TASSC carried out the Toronto Aboriginal Research Project, which is the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted of aboriginal people in Toronto. One of the shocking findings is that thirty-four percent, or about 1 in 3 women in federal custody, are indigenous.
The event concluded with Shoshona Kish of Digging Roots saying, “Tonight is about indigenous women and girls in our memory and in our hearts. Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women who deserve so much more. 1,200 missing and murdered women in this country is devastating and even one woman is too many. We as a community can raise our voices loud enough in a really good way to keep the conversation alive and keep us moving forward. Why tonight is important is to have culturally relevant services for women.”