How many more mutilated women’s bodies will it take? How many more haunting ghosts of the disappeared?

Some 600 cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women have been catalogued, half of them in the past decade.

There is a crying need for action. Consider that, if non-native women were dying and disappearing at a proportionally similar rate, the number would exceed 20,000. Do you think that would be a priority?

The Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations have called for a national inquiry to probe this horrific litany of slaughter and propose a national action plan.

Last Thursday and Friday, the ministers of justice, aboriginal affairs and status of women from all 13 provinces and territories gathered in Winnipeg to mull over the idea.

The federal government refused to participate – an act so contemptuous one can barely find the words to describe it. What do ministers of the Crown who have a constitutional responsibility to aboriginal people possibly have on their agenda that was more important?

At least the provinces and territories had the courage to try, but, disappointingly, their conclusion was that they need more discussion and they won’t make a decision until at least 2014.

Bob McLeod, premier and aboriginal affairs minister of the Northwest Territories, said governments are committed to taking action to reduce violence against aboriginal women, but before agreeing to an inquiry, they want to ensure it has a “very clear mandate.”

While the caution is understandable, the delay is unacceptable.

Solving the murders of hundreds of young women – most under the age of 30 and victims of sexual violence – and preventing hundreds more deaths has to be a national priority for police, justice and public health officials, and for politicians too.

The ministers are correct in saying that an inquiry into the deaths, if it is to be useful, needs to have a clear purpose.

It can’t simply be an open-ended exercise in venting – though, Lord knows, Canada’s first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have a lot of legitimate grievances.

Aboriginal groups have said they want the inquiry to examine two specific areas: 1) how police investigate missing persons and homicide cases and; 2) the effect poverty and socio-economic factors have on aboriginal women.

The former is a must because of the persistent belief that, when aboriginal women go missing or are killed, the efforts are slower and lesser. The latter is a bit more tricky: While nearly all the dead and disappeared came from troubled backgrounds and/or were considered high-risk because they did sex work, had substance abuse or other mental-health issues, or lived a transient lifestyle, those vast challenges cannot be tackled across the board.

The focus of an inquiry on murdered and missing aboriginal women has to zero in on whether police investigations are done properly and how to better ensure the safety of aboriginal women who work in the sex trade and have substance-abuse problems.

If we expect too much of a single inquiry, it will be doomed to failure.

There are, so far, two provincial inquiries under way examining the deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women, and they both offer some cautionary lessons.

Manitoba has created a police task force, called Project Devote, that is examining the cases of eight missing persons and 20 homicide victims in the province (whittled down from a larger list of 85). Most, but not all, of the cases are aboriginal women and they were all involved in high-risk activities such as the sex trade. Solving even some of those cases would be a victory – but still unsatisfactory because it will not offer solutions.

B.C. has the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, charged with examining the missing and murdered women of Vancouver (most of them aboriginal sex workers) and probing the 1998 decision to stay charges against mass murderer Robert Pickton. That inquiry, which has delved into the socio-economic issues, became hopelessly bogged down in legal battles about standing and procedure. Wally Oppal’s report should be released later this month and there is no doubt it will leave many unanswered questions.

So, yes, a national inquiry is required, and a clear mandate is essential.

It shouldn’t take two more years to figure out terms of reference. The ministers – provincial, territorial and federal – should lock themselves in a room and not come out until they’ve figured it out.

Given the bloodshed, the heartache and the desperate need for solutions, it’s the least they can do.

Responses to "Too many aboriginal women have died. It’s time for action"

  1. Anonymous says:

    ...on August 1st i went to a party with 5 girlfriends i fell asleep on the couch i woke up and this man was raping me i went right to the rcmp and then went and did a rape kit ...i saw this man on the street on Monday i shake so badly when i see him he gets to walk around free it because im native ...rape a white girl and it makes the news rape a native woman and you get to walk around free ...i did something bad tho i went and got my boyfriend and drove him to where the guy was he beat him with a bat the cops are goin crazy in this small town looking for my boyfriend ...yesterday i saw the rapist hitchhiking to town ...why are we treated like this? its time for change as sacred givers of life as clan mothers as people that were once held so highly in native society ..."a nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground" pick up your sisters your mothers your aunts your grandmothers ...give back the respect honour and keep native home fires strong

  2. Anonymous says:

    I wish you strenght, and hope that this wil end!! man schould nevver touch a woman if sche does not want it!! stupid and grazy it is!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    It seems that evil reigns more so than good and that good is taken out. I think the mistake to make is to believe that. To beleive that evil is stronger and that good can never come. To believe that is to lose all hope. Don't lose hope dispite the injustices and the crookedness of the governement but don't rely on the government. Rely on yourselves, find strength in yourselves and your faith in God. I think that is what they try and take away but they can never take away your spirit. Be strong in your spirit and never let them have control of that.

  4. Janet says:

    I don't care what type of work a woman does (especially since Native women have limited options, both due to financial issues and prejudice) this is WRONG!!! Native peoples made the Americas (North, Central, South) what they are. They preserved and honored the earth so we could sail over destroy them, their culture and the land they loved. How can this be allowed to continue? I thought things were better in Canada. We all need to join together as women and insist that action is taken. Women of all ethnicities are sex workers, and substance abusers - that does not negate their value as human beings. Is there a petition?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Very awful to hear of this happening to our people...that's why I support Tribal Police who are in a position to understand the ways of the Native peoples on Native land. Not that this is a perfect answer, but if non-Native's are not doing anything or are slow to do anything, we have to protect our own. God Bless!

  6. Anonymous says:

    THANK YOU for finally posting this, & PLEASE keep re-posting this, so that NOBODY forgets. This is a SERIOUS issue of THOUSANDS of Native/Aboriginal women missing, raped, murdered in Canada & USA.

    I do NOT like the media bc they show "selective news". Right now, Thousands of beautiful Native women missing, but where is it on tv, radio, newspaper???? Yet, if ONE blonde girl goes missing, it's in the news for an entire year PLUS a movie on a tv network about her. Sad, but so true.

    If news media won't show Native women missing, then everyone of you have to be their voices! Make this known to your friends & families, facebook, twitter, etc. This is serious, look it up online, since it's the only place u can actually hear about these missing women.

    S.M. <3 One Love

  7. Anonymous says:

    To anonymous that fell asleep at the party, my heart hurts for you and I am so sorry. The rapist that broke into my house in the middle of the night got out and a pr (promised he wouldn't do it again) Only problem with that is I was his 4rd PR. I live in the US. Thank God for your boyfriend who understood what you are going through. I pray no harm comes to him.

  8. LindaZoe says:

    No woman deserves to be raped. Every woman deserves justice no matter who they are. Canada and the US need to get their heads out of the sand and stand up for our sisters, mothers, daughters. A woman should never have to feel shamed or belittled or the fear of standing up and reporting their rape and getting medical and emotional support. I pray for my sisters everywhere. Namaste

  9. Anonymous says:

    It saddens me to hear of discrimination or of people feeling discriminated against. We are all equal and should be all treated as such. April Raintree was one of my favorite novels when I was a teen. Sadly the Reality we must all come to realize is that there are stereotypes for every race, every hobby, and every demeanor. I dream of a day when everyone ignores those stereotypes and accepts everyone as equal human beings with kindness and love. I dream of a day where no victim feels victimized and instead empowered intrinsically with their innate skills through self actualization instead of being burdened by despair. Jack Layton advised us not to get angry. He was white. Does that matter? It shouldn't. Jack knew there was something to be angry about. So let's take Jack's advice, and move on together. Let's be proud of our culture and keep sharing it. Whether you are Chinese, Aboriginal, Francophone, Anglophone, it doesn't matter because we are all human beings. Let's unite as CANADIANS, put our blind folds on and our thinking caps on and let's get this mandate written so that Justice can be served to these missing women! Most importantly, let's support our troops, our police, and our government so that they can be empowered, because at the end of the day, WE are all just human and justice comes intrinsically from peace within I believe. What do you believe? Let's have a discussion....Let's brainstorm....Then write the mandate!

  10. Anonymous says:

    So now your boyfriend has to be in hiding. That's a shame. He should have waited awhile before he beat that piece of crap up. everyone seems to think that white women are protected. That's just not true. we are every bit as victemizwd as any other group of women. What we as women, all women have to do is to stand together and demand justice.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I agree that we as women should stand together. Human trafficking is also another huge problem. Apparently white women are being auctioned off somewhere in Europe EACH week and sold for thousands of dollars! A person with close ties to the legal community told me this. They are being kidnapped from America including Canada! Could this be connected? Would the police tell us? Probably not because it is under investigation most likely. Justice may be in the works, and we won't always know. Just like Einstein didn't find out he was smart until he was dead. I wish life was fair, but it just isn't and all we CAN do is stand up and be strong as CANADIAN WOMEN.

  12. Anonymous says: last important point....

    the connection might be missed by distraction of a stereotype such as looking for white...or looking for pink...

    All colors could be human trafficked.....

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