By: Tessa Vanderhart, Winnipeg Free Press
The Manitoba Metis Federation is offering a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to a conviction in the murder or disappearance of community members.
"It will give a tool, an extra tool, that RCMP or WPS can use to find them," said president David Chartrand Saturday, after announcing the policy at the MMF’s Annual General Assembly.
Some of the details are still being worked out with police, but Chartrand said the policy will take effect "immediately" and apply to all Métis, "whether a boy or a girl, a man or a woman."
MMF justice minister Julyda Lagimodiere’s personal loss informed her work on the policy. Her grandson Christopher Ponask was killed just days before his 20th birthday in 2008, and she still tears up when talking about him.
"I just know, from personal trauma, how difficult it is, what that kind of misfortune is," she said.
Ponask was found dead near a gas station in Thompson, and no one has ever been charged in his death.
She hopes the reward will help other families, especially those with loved ones are still missing.
"I feel for those people even more, that don’t have a body to have a funeral for," she said. "It doesn’t bring them back, but it helps with the closure. It helps very much with the closure."
Lagimodiere has custody of Ponask’s daughter who was born after his death, a constant reminder of her love for her grandson.
"She cries for her dad that she’s never met," she said.
Chartrand said he’s prepared to spend even $100,000 or even $500,000 a year on rewards.
He said all too often, families feel they have to offer whatever reward they can afford.
"They’re pleading with the killers, to say ‘just tell us, where is the body, so we can have peace in our family,’ that’s how desperate they are," he said. "We’ve got to find ways to make a difference."
Any type of support for families of missing and murdered is good news, said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, MMIWG liaison for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
"Anything that any organization can do to support a family of someone who is missing is a good thing, and if they have the financial means to do that, even better," Anderson-Pyrz said.
Many Indigenous communities don’t have the money for that kind of support, she said.
Equally important are resources for family to cope with the trauma of losing a loved one, especially to violence, she said.