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NAN holds 24-hour ceremony in Ottawa for missing, murdered women

Friday May 16, 2014
Photo courtesy of NAN

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation Women’s Council and Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler held a rally and 24-hour drum ceremony in Ottawa from May 11-12 and called on the government to have a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.
Photo courtesty of Peter Stockdale

An urn containing the remains of a murdered family member was present at the ceremony in Ottawa.

NAN Women’s Council held a 24-hour ceremonial drumming on Victoria Island and Parliament Hill to demand a national public inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

The gathering comes after the RCMP revealed police have compiled a list of 1,186 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Honouring Our Missing Sisters: a 24-Hour Sacred Gathering of Drums was held on May 11-12, and involved 24 hours of ceremonial drumming.

Jackie Fletcher, NAN Women’s Council spokesperson, said that the purpose of the 24-hour drumming was to send a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that “we will not rest” until the government commits to a national inquiry on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair joined Fletcher, and other First Nations and political leaders as well as representatives from women’s organizations, on Parliament Hill on May 12 for a press conference.

Fiddler said that he was pleased to support the women of Nishnawbe Aski Nation in honouring the missing Aboriginal women.

“I am pleased to support the women of Nishnawbe Aski to honour our missing sisters and demand that the Government of Canada call a national public inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women,” Fiddler said. Fiddler holds the women’s directorate portfolio at NAN.

Fletcher said that the homicide rate for Aboriginal women and girls is “shockingly higher” than all other women in Canada.

“It is shameful that our calls for action continue to fall on deaf ears when our sisters continue to be murdered and disappear without a trace,” Fletcher said.

NAN has stated that the Harper government is resisting renewed calls for an inquiry after it was revealed that the RCMP have compiled a list of 1,186 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. It is reported that 1,017 of those women in the cases have been murdered.

May 12 also marked the release of the UN Special Rapporteur report on the rights of Indigenous people by UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya, which recommends a national inquiry into the “disturbing phenomenon” of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Anaya’s report is based on research and information gathered from various sources, including a weeklong visit to Canada in October. With the help of Assemby of First Nations, Anaya visited six provinces and a number of First Nations communities.

AFN Spokesperson Regional Chief Ghislain Picard welcomed the UN report, and called on the Government of Canada to work together with Indigenous peoples to implement the recommendations.

“We welcome as well his (Anaya’s) support for our call for a national public inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” Picard said.

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy said he is not surprised by the “crisis situation” described by Anaya in the report. Beardy called it a “national disgrace” that the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women does not register in the consciousness of Canada.

“I hope this report prompts a national inquiry,” Beardy said. “There is something wrong in our country if Indigenous women are five times more likely to be violently attacked than non-Aboriginal women.”

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