A CALL FOR INQUIRY
A strong push is taking place right now for the federal government to conduct an inquiry into these cases of missing and murdered women as the numbers continue to grow. Though calls for the inquiry have been coming from indigenous groups for years, the issue has once again found a voice in Canadian social media in the wake of recent tragedies. Just last week, Rinelle Harper, a sexual assault victim who was left almost dead last month on a path near the Assiniboine River in downtown Winnipeg, added her voice to the list of those who are challenging the federal government to conduct an inquiry.1
Rinelle, who is pictured holding an eagle feather in the image above, bravely addressed the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs on December 9th in Winnipeg. Rinelle's parents released her name to the media hoping to facilitate a police investigation - it worked, and two men have been arrested and charged. Her assault comes just a few months after the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in the Red River in Winnipeg this August.2
On November 13, 2014 Winnipeg Councillor Scott Gillingham voiced his support for a national inquiry and, on December 5, 2014, the Winnipeg Police Department took a step forward and announced that better protecting Aboriginal girls and women will now be considered a “strategic policy”.3
On October 19, 2014 the Canadian Public Health Organization added their voice in when they, too, challenged the government to conduct an inquiry.4
On July 28, 2011 the President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Jeanette Corbiere Lavell, called for a national inquiry after the BC Government shut the group out of the British Columbia Missing Women Commission of Inquiry causing the NWAC to question the validity of the inquiry’s results.5
On October 4, 2014 nationwide protests calling for an inquiry held a national day of vigils. Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addressed the crowd at the vigil at Parliament Hill in Ottawa and promised that if his government were elected, that they would hold a full national inquiry.6
In September 2014, social media was flooded with a nationwide movement by Aboriginal women who, hoping to push Stephen Harper and the Conservatives toward an inquiry, used the chilling hashtag #AmINext to raise awareness for missing and murdered women.7
National Aboriginal Chief, Perry Bellegrade has showed strong support for a national inquiry, and both he and lawyer and former national chief candidate, Joan Jack, cited issues such as, “a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves”8 and “sexism and chauvinism within the aboriginal community”9 as being part of the problems that need to be addressed for change to occur.
Stephen Harper and the federal government continue to deny requests for a national inquiry.
What we hope we have achieved with this project is to illuminate a small portion of how the issues surrounding and contributing to the disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women are a sociological web. Looking at the history of representation gives us an idea of how colonial ideas continue to influence public opinion about Aboriginal women, and how these stereotypes allow the continued policy of ignorance and disparities in attention to this issue. Cases like the Highway of Tears are pushing the drive for change and attention, but Western Canada still has a lot of catch up to play. As movements like Idle No More come into the national discourse, the call for inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women has become more intense. However our current Conservative government continues to ignore that pressure. Their policy, at least as Harper stated it in the Yukon, is that they would prefer to address these issues as individual crimes. Widely reflective of Conservative policy, this strategy has unfortunately failed to address structural issues of racism embedded in our system that enable the crimes committed.