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No national inquiry into missing, murdered Aboriginal woman

Wednesday March 19, 2014
Wawatay file photo

Community members walk in support of missing and murdered Aboriginal women on Valentine’s Day last month.

A report on violence against indigenous women by a parliamentary committee was met with outrage, with one grand chief calling it a “national disgrace.”

The Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women released a report on March 14 entitled “Invisible Women: A Call to Action.”

The report has 16 recommendations including a public awareness and prevention campaign, a national DNA-based missing persons database, and the possibility of collecting police data on violence against Aboriginal women and girls that includes an ethnicity variable.

The lack of a recommendation for a public inquiry into the issue garnered outrage from Aboriginal leaders, organizations and groups across the country, including Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Chiefs of Ontario (COO) Regional Chief Stan Beardy, and Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo.

The report came a day before the funeral of Inuk woman named Loretta Saunders who was murdered in Nova Scotia. Saunders was a University student who was writing a thesis based on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women when she was killed.

Fiddler decried the report and referred to the lack of an inquiry a “national disgrace.”

“For the second time in nearly two years a parliamentary committee has failed to recommend the action we need to fully address the high levels of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada,” Fiddler said.

“The special committee process that developed this report and its recommendations isn’t nearly enough to address the magnitude of this issue, and this government’s continued failure to call in inquiry to fully investigate these disappearances is nothing short of a national disgrace,” Fiddler said.

Beardy said he knows too well how the loss of a loved one due to violence can alter one’s life and leave a shocking impact in a community and family.

“This has to end,” Beardy said. “I am supporting the call by the Aboriginal Women’s Association for a national inquiry.”

COO demanded the federal government establish a National Public Inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

“There is something wrong in our country if Indigenous women are five times more likely to be violently attacked than non-Aboriginal women,” Beardy said.

Atleo stated that the report “disappoints victims and families of missing and murdered women and girls,” adding that the report that does not go far enough to address the issue.

He said that leaders of national Indigenous organizations will be meeting to discuss immediate action to address the issue.

“The Special Committee on Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women heard emotional, powerful and constructive testimony and yet it’s clear those voices were not heard,” Atleo said. “We know we cannot achieve the change we need without a clear, unequivocal commitment and systemic change to ending violence and taking all the necessary steps to ensure Indigenous women and girls are safe.”

Atleo called the report “disappointing” to Indigenous women and girls.

AFN Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who holds the AFN portfolio for community safety and policing, said “there is growing awareness of this tragedy and the public is standing with us.”

“We call on the Government of Canada to work together with First Nations organizations and citizens to develop and implement a National Action Plan to end violence,” Alexis said.

Fiddler said that the homicide rate for Indigenous women and girls is shockingly higher than all other women in Canada, and it’s shameful that the Government of Canada is “choosing the status quo over a commitment to meaningful action.”

“The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is mistaken if he thinks we will allow his government to hide behind reports that essentially say everything is fine as-is when our mothers, sisters, and daughters are dying and disappearing without a trace,” Fiddler said.

NAN honoured all missing and murdered women during a recent NAN Women’s Forum, and will do so at the upcoming NAN Special Chiefs Assembly later this month.

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