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Thousands march for a national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women


Maude Barlow MMIW

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow expresses her support for an inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women.

People across the country took to the streets on Saturday to call for a national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women.

CTV reports, “This year, events took place in such cities as Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon.” Various news reports say that thousands marched in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, more than 500 gathered outside police headquarters in Toronto, about 300 assembled at the University of Winnipeg, 100 people were at the Kelowna Law Courts, and 70 people marched in Thunder Bay. Marches also took place in Victoria, Prince George and numerous other cities.

Almost 1,200 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing over the last 30 years in Canada, including 160 women in British Columbia – the most from any province or territory – and 121 women in Manitoba. The CTV news report poignantly adds, “The marches coincided with an ongoing police investigation in Calgary into a suspicious death in the city’s north-east end. The body of 31-year-old Dawn Echoes Baptiste was discovered Thursday in Calgary’s Whitehorn neighbourhood. …The cause of death has not yet been released.” The Globe and Mail recently reported, “Aboriginal leaders have long called for a national inquiry, but the chorus grew louder after Winnipeg was hit last year by two high-profile cases with stark similarities: Tina Fontaine, 15, was found dead in the Red River in August; Rinelle Harper, 16, was discovered nearly lifeless on a footpath alongside the Assiniboine River in November.”

CTV highlights, “The Conservative government has been criticized for its refusal to commission such an inquiry.” As for an explanation, the Kelowna Daily Courier notes, “The Conservative government [says the] police have the ability to solve the crimes.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has stated that a national inquiry would help in numerous ways, including exposing the colonial roots of violence against Indigenous women in Canada. CBC reports, “Bellegarde said the lingering impacts of the ‘cultural genocide’ of the residential school system and the imposition of the Indian Act on First Nations communities continue to ‘really hurt indigenous peoples in Canada’.” About 150,000 Indigenous children in this country were forced to attend residential schools.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated that the high rate of violence experienced by Indigenous women in Canada is “related to a history of discrimination beginning with colonization and continuing through inadequate and unjust laws and policies such as the Indian Act and forced enrollment in residential schools that continue to affect them.” The IACHR recommends that the federal government “provide a national coordinated response to address the social and economic factors that prevent indigenous women from enjoying their social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights, the violation of which constitutes a root cause of their exposure to higher risks of violence.”

When asked about the likelihood of a national inquiry, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated, “it isn’t really high on our radar.”

Over the past three years the Council of Canadians has repeatedly called for a national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women. Most recently, we have been asking our supporters across the country to write a letter to the editor of their local newspaper to show their support for this demand. This is happening in advance of a national roundtable that will include families of murdered and missing Indigenous women, Indigenous organizations and provincial premiers that will take place in Ottawa on February 27. For more on that, please click here.