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Ottawa falls behind on inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women

The inquiry seemed to make great political hay for Trudeau against the Harper Conservatives, but the issue has now dropped off of the radar.

Families and advocates of B.C. missing and murdered Indigenous women smudge themselves with burning sage as they respond to the federal government's launch of a national inquiry into thousands of disappearances.

File photo

Families and advocates of B.C. missing and murdered Indigenous women smudge themselves with burning sage as they respond to the federal government's launch of a national inquiry into thousands of disappearances.

In a discouraging move, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women abruptly cancelled meetings in Edmonton last week. In a statement the commission said that feedback, “shared in Whitehorse…and from other across the country [was] that the process of seeking advice through the regional advisories must be reformulated”.

While the inquiry statement says that it remains committed to being responsive to families and survivors, new dates have not been set for the regional meetings.

The inquiry seemed to make great political hay for Trudeau against the Harper Conservatives, but the issue has now dropped off of the radar compared to pot legislation, Canada’s 150th birthday, and NAFTA.

This is unsettling. According to data collected by the City of Edmonton, Indigenous women are nine times more likely to be homeless than non-Indigenous women and they suffer higher rates of domestic violence.

The Indigenous communities face this issue whether or not we are in a news cycle. It is painful to the families and friends of loved ones to have to rip open old wounds; it is demoralizing if nothing comes of it.

The RCMP pegged the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women to be over 1,000 before the commission began. Other community groups estimate the number to be around 1,200.

It was these numbers that prompted the National Voice of Aboriginal Women in Canada to declare this issue a national crisis. The group released a report card on the inquiry in early 2017 that declared several areas where further action needed to be taken.

A common theme in the report was a lack of outreach and support to the families and community members working with the inquiry.

The commission has also come under scrutiny for their collection of data. The inquiry is relying on family members to contact them rather than initiating contact.

Sadly, the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women has become a way to virtue signal to progressive voters without having to do more than hold a press conference.

It looks great on the news to stand behind a podium and declare the beginning of a much-needed inquiry, but it is the work that comes after which is the most difficult.

The inquiry is only a part of the reconciliation occurring between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. While this is going on, many family members and friends are still missing their loved ones.  

We can’t allow Indigenous women to become a cheap way to score political points for the Trudeau Liberals. Especially as we near the Canada 150 celebration. 

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