Women's groups endorse call for national inquiry into missing womenMonday, April 29 2013
TORONTO - LEAF (Women's Legal Education Action Fund) and its sister organization West Coast LEAF applaud the call by nine provinces for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. British Columbia, the province with the highest number of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the country, was not present at the meeting of provincial Aboriginal Affairs departments and is the only province that did not endorse the communiqué. The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), along with other national Aboriginal organizations, has been calling for such an inquiry for years and LEAF and West Coast LEAF have supported that call.
According to the research compiled by NWAC's Sisters in Spirit research project, over 600 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the last 30 years. Although the federal government has struck a Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women, a national inquiry that is run independently of government is necessary.
"Women across Canada are deeply concerned that this travesty continues in our midst, with Indigenous women disproportionately targeted for violence and their cases disproportionately ignored by police," says Kim Stanton, LEAF Legal Director. "A public inquiry is needed to investigate the systemic bases for these shameful and disturbing statistics."
A public inquiry must be run with a carefully balanced and inclusive process as well as effective leadership. Such an inquiry would have the potential to radically change the narrative with respect to how Canada treats Indigenous women by creating public understanding and engagement in the underlying reasons for violence against Indigenous women in this country. As West Coast LEAF has noted in its co-authored report "Blueprint for an Inquiry: Learning from the Failures of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry", such a public inquiry must be structured in a way that does not deepen the tragedy for the families and communities of the women.
"If there is one lesson to be taken from the failures of BC's Missing Women's Inquiry, it is that commissions of inquiry that intend to work with marginalized communities must consult thoroughly at every stage with those communities, and must create an inclusive and respectful process" says Kasari Govender, West Coast LEAF Executive Director and report co-author. "A public inquiry will not get to the bottom of this tragedy if it excludes the voices of the individuals and communities most affected."
LEAF and West Coast LEAF look forward to the federal government response to this important and remarkably strong call from the provinces.