Since 1980, Canadian Police have estimated that almost 1,200 First Nations women have gone missing or have been murdered. Other reports put those figures even higher at almost 4,000 cases. While Canada’s last Prime Minister seemingly ignored the rising crisis, current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally delivered on another campaign promise to look into the situation.
The New York Times reports that this inquiry, named the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, will start with a budget of $54 million CAD and will “explore the root causes of the violence, including the role of institutions like the police and child welfare services.” This inquiry came about after 150 First Nations leaders and families of victims came forward to ask Trudeau to act on his campaign promise and do a “hard reset.”
In a press release Alex Neve, the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, provided some background on the situation. He made sure to note that organizations, like Amnesty International Canada, have been documenting this tragedy for a very long time. He said, “it is almost twelve years since Amnesty International launched our Stolen Sisters report, documenting the role of long entrenched discrimination in putting shocking numbers of Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way.”
Neve continued, “in raising our voice, we joined the Native Women’s Association of Canada; family members of murdered and missing First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls; women and girls who had survived violence; and countless frontline organizations and allies; all of whom had been struggling for years to draw attention to the violence and demand real action to bring it to an end.”
A report released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stated, “First Nations women are four times more likely to go missing or be murdered than other Canadian women.” The report also pointed out that First Nations women make up only 4.3 percent of the female population of Canada, yet these women also make up 16 percent of female murder victims and 11 percent of missing person’s cases.
Shortly after news of the inquiry hit the presses Dawn Lavell-Harvard, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), applauded Trudeau’s decision to start an investigation but is concerned about the small number of commissioners who will be investigating the “ongoing National tragedy.”
Lavell-Harvard said, “after 11 years of NWAC listening to the families of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, we are pleased that we now have a government who is prepared to listen and act.”
She made sure to add, “we want to acknowledge the great responsibility that the Commissioners have undertaken and commit to support them as they start this work.”
Neve is also skeptical about the announcement, but agrees with Lavell-Harvard that this is a “momentous milestone in this long journey.” Neve said, “we certainly commend the government for having launched the Inquiry. But still there are doubts, uncertainty and concern. Three aspects are particularly preoccupying as they go to the very fundamentals of what this Inquiry must address.”
We are happy to see that Trudeau is delivering on another important campaign promise. Hopefully, this inquiry will provide some information for the victim’s families and change the way Canada investigates these cases.
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