Engaging the Métis community on violence

Submitted by Valerie Stortini, MNO ASVCRI Coordinator

Valerie Stortini
Valerie Stortini during the Faceless
Doll activity at the MNO 2014 AGA

As reported in the last issue of the Métis Voyageur, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) is delivering a project in Thunder Bay called the Aboriginal Sexual Violence Community Response Initiative (ASVCRI). The MNO ASVCRI is tasked with identifying and implementing safe, coordinated community approaches to ending sexual violence as well as educating the public and promoting recovery.

To aid in the delivery of this important work, ASVCRI Coordinator Valerie Stortini, has embraced the Faceless Dolls project as a way to engage the Thunder Bay community on a topic that is often surrounded by feelings of shame, anger and even denial. The Faceless Doll project is a hands-on art project originally developed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and has been customized for the MNO to commemorate the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Each felt doll represents the life of a woman, emphasizing that ‘each statistic tells a story.’ As a legacy to the original Faceless Dolls project, organizations are encouraged to take ownership of the issue and create their own dolls to meet the needs of their community.

The MNO ASVCRI proudly introduced the Faceless Dolls project at the 2014 MNO AGA in Thunder Bay. The activity was part of a Leadership Engagement Day on Violence Against Aboriginal Women, hosted by the MNO. The workshop was introduced by the Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Jennifer Lord. The new and updated MNO version of the Faceless Doll project was led by Valerie who opened the activity sharing that her hopes were that this MNO project would reflect the Métis Nation’s deep respect for and commitment to our women.

What was created after an hour and a half of dedicated crafting, thoughtfulness, laughter and some tears was a beautiful homage to our ancestors and a true representation of the strength and beauty of the Métis Nation. For the first time, and through the spontaneous actions of several citizens, the MNO Faceless Dolls includes male dolls, placed alongside female dolls. Together, the display symbolizes our great strength as men and women to end violence in all of its forms together, as a united front.

Many participants donated their dolls back to the MNO and the entire collection will be used by the ASVCRI Coordinator as a traveling display when presenting at schools and community organizations. If you are interested in having the ASVCRI visit your school or association in Thunder Bay, please contact Valerie Stortini at 807-355-1349.