As calls for a national inquiry go on, native groups hope Friday’s roundtable in Ottawa on missing and murdered aboriginal women lead to a plan to solve the issue.
Every year on April 29, Sue Martin marks her daughter Terrie’s death by holding a vigil where she cooks and invites family members over to pray and share stories about loved ones.
Terrie was 24 when she was murdered in her Calgary home in 2002 while her children were in their rooms. She had been severely beaten, but to this day no one has been charged for the crime.
Martin believes there needs to be tougher laws and more police resources to deal with killings involving aboriginal women, like her daughter.
“We need more education for our women, and more safe places for our women to go,’’ Martin said, referring to shelters for aboriginal females.
Those are some of the things Martin wants to see come out of Friday’s roundtable in Ottawa on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The roundtable will bring together representatives from the provinces and territories, national aboriginal groups, and the federal government — two delegates from each group will be at the table.
The aboriginal groups attending include the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch have also said they’ll be participating, as will Premier Kathleen Wynne, her spokesperson said.
The roundtable is being held amid repeated calls for a broader national inquiry — calls the federal government has slammed the door on.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is instead devoting $5 million a year for five years toward an “action plan’’ to end violence against aboriginal women, and says a national missing persons DNA index will also help address the problems.
Despite the federal government’s opposition to holding a larger inquiry, aboriginal groups continue to push for one.
Betty Ann Lavallee, national chief of the Congress for Aboriginal Peoples, who will be at the table Friday, represents one such group.
“Who knows. There’s a federal election coming up. Maybe the next time around there will be a better understanding and sympathy toward what a lot of these (missing and murdered) women when through, and hopefully see the rationale for a national inquiry,’’ Lavallee said in an interview.
Dawn Harvard, interim president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, noted that provincial leaders such as Premier Kathleen Wynne understand the missing and murdered aboriginal women’s issue is “a crisis’’ even though the federal government doesn’t see things that way.
“How do you have these (different) views of reality?’’ asked Harvard, a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island who will also be at the table Friday.
Last May, the RCMP released a report that found between 1980 and 2012 there were 1,181 police-recorded incidents involving missing aboriginal females and homicides — 1,017 in all — of aboriginal females.
Most of the homicides were committed by men who knew their victims, the report said. The roundtable will address key themes including, prevention and awareness, police and justice system responses, and “community safety plans and protocols.’’
The roundtable grew out of a meeting in August between provincial premiers and national aboriginal groups.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, another roundtable member, said he wants the discussion to lead to “a co-ordinated action plan’’ aimed a preventing the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“Where are the daycares needed to help support ending the violence? We need more resources and co-ordination when it comes to investigating when indigenous women and girls go missing.
“Their lives matter,’’ Bellegarde added.