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      Huge Support for Women's Rights!
      Women's Memorial March Vancouver brings out more than 1,200 people!

      By Aaron Mercredi

      On February 14th, more than 1,200 people gathered at the intersection of Main and Hastings streets in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside for the 25th Annual Women’s Memorial March. Thousands more joined in dozens of cities across Canada, along with some cities in the United States, for similar marches to draw attention to a cross-country humanitarian crisis that is being ignored by the government of Canada: the issue of missing and murdered Native women.

      According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), there are more than 600 unsolved cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women across the country since the 1980s. In 2014, the RCMP released the report, “Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview” acknowledging the problem. It summarized that between 1980 and 2012 police-recorded incidents of Aboriginal female homicides and unresolved missing Aboriginal females in its review totaled 1,181 – 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims. This has obviously been a critical issue for Indigenous communities across the country, and families have continued to demand accountability from the different police forces and different levels of government.

      In every possible way, the Harper Conservative government has shown its contempt for the fight for justice of Indigenous people across Canada. In 2010, the Conservative government cut all funding to Sisters in Spirit, NWAC’s ground-breaking program which conducted research and funded action to solve the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The Conservative government justified the cuts by saying “it is time to move to action, by taking the research and implementing it on the streets”. But, in the years following, Indigenous women have continued to be murdered and gone missing and the government of Canada has continued to do nothing. In December 2014, Stephen Harper made the government of Canada’s feelings about the matter crystal clear. When he was asked during a year-end interview with CBC about a public inquiry in to missing and murdered Aboriginal women, he said, “Um it, it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest ... Our ministers will continue to dialogue with those who are concerned about this.”

      As the murders and disappearances continue to mount, more and more pressure is being placed on the federal government to act. A recent report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is affiliated with the Organization of American States (OAS) has called for a national-level action plan and public inquiry in to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This echoes James Anaya’s call, the UN’s special rapporteur on Indigenous Rights who recently release his report on his findings of Canada’s failure of Indigenous people in this country. On February 9 th , the Stephen Harper Conservative government agreed to have two of its federal cabinet ministers meet with premiers and Indigenous leaders in Ottawa later this month to address the issue. However, the government rejected the requests for financial help to make the meeting possible.

      Given the Conservative government’s attacks on every aspect of Indigenous people’s lives – from self-determination, to land and resources, to the legacy of residential schools, to education, healthcare and housing—we cannot expect that the government of Canada will pursue an honest and sincere inquiry in to the murders and disappearances of so many Native women. If they will not, we need to demand an independent public inquiry, one that is completely possible and can bring solutions to the tragedy that Canada has created and continues to ignore.

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