Missing and murdered

The catastrophic issue of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) in Canada seemed to garner a new level of public recognition in 2014. In August the body of Tina Fontaine — a 15-year-old originally from Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation — was pulled out of Winnipeg’s Red River reigniting pleas for a national inquiry into the 1017 aboriginal women the RCMP reports were murdered between 1980 and 2012. Prime Minister Stephen Harper Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Premier Jim Prentice all publicly rejected the calls (in Harper’s year-end interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge he stated that an inquiry “… isn’t really high on our radar to be honest” stunning and infuriating advocates).

“The federal government should be ashamed of themselves for their position on missing and murdered indigenous women” says Josie Nepinak the executive director of Calgary’s Awo Taan Healing Lodge. “They should be ashamed for the fact that Canada has such a horrendous record around this issue and the fact this government is not doing anything and dismissing the facts by saying they’re ‘crimes’ and not a ‘sociological phenomenon’ when we know that there are many issues that underlie.”

Unfortunately for Harper the issue’s not about to disappear. On January 12 the (IACHR) released a lengthy report about the issue of MMIW in British Columbia the province that accounts for the highest percentage of cases in the country. The IACHR report commissioned by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Feminist Alliance for International Action took two years to compile. The detail of the report reflects the time it took: using an enormous number of sources (both written and oral) the free publication serves as a detailed case on the background and numerous factors impacting the issue. It concludes with a series of recommendations including addressing deep-rooted issues (poverty unemployment psychological trauma) launching a national inquiry improving data collection and improving indigenous-specific initiatives.