The Who Is She fundraising campaign, launched Wednesday in Toronto by Ontario’s First Nations, will raise money for a judicial inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The federal government has repeatedly declined to hold a public inquiry into the matter. Now Ontario’s chiefs will attempt to fund their own inquiry through the Who Is She campaign.
“It’s going to be designed by us as First Nations, for First Nations,” deputy grand chief Glen Hare of Anishinabek Nation told Yahoo Canada News. “It’s going to be our work for our women and our girls.”
The fundraising campaign’s launch follows the Ontario chiefs’ decision in June 2014 to organize their own inquiry into the tragedy. The fundraising aspect of Who Is She will raise money towards an aboriginal-run inquiry, but there is not yet a set financial goal or timeline, Hare said.
“We don’t want to put a dollar figure on it,” Hare said. “It’s something we’re starting as First Nations because nobody else is doing it.”
Hare acknowledges that an inquiry is an expensive undertaking, but said the Ontario chiefs believe Who Is She is a good starting point and a necessary step.
“There’s so much finger pointing, who’s responsible and who’s doing what. Enough of that,” Hare said. “It’s time to do something.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne gave the keynote speech at Wednesday’s campaign announcement along with Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer. Ontario First Nations have the support of the provincial government, Ontario police, and other aboriginal groups in this campaign, Hare said.
“I think any efforts we have to move towards an inquiry, to move towards addressing this crisis and resolving this situation are really, really important,” Dawn Memee Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, told Yahoo Canada News. “We can’t afford to have any more families in crisis, any more of our sisters go missing, while the federal government sits back and does nothing.”
According to an RCMP report released in June, 1,181 women and girls identified as indigenous were murdered between 1980 and 2012 with another 174 missing.
An updated study released by the RCMP in June found that there are 1,181 female aboriginal homicide victims known to Canadian police between 1980 and 2014, and 174 missing women.
Several national and international organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, have also called for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has said that his government will not call an official inquiry. Multiple past studies into missing and murdered aboriginal women, along with crime prevention measures and other program, are sufficient, Harper has said.
An NDP government would call an official inquiry within the first 100 days of its term, Leader Tom Mulcair has promised. And Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he would also call an inquiry if he becomes prime minister.
The Who Is She website will include photos of missing aboriginal women, along with messages from their family members. The Ontario First Nations hope that relatives of missing and murdered aboriginal women will be at future Who Is She events and be involved with the campaign, Hare said.
“We want them to work with us and to speak out,” he said. “And for everybody to hear what’s going on here.”
Hare said he would also welcome the participation of other First Nations across North America or their own efforts towards a similar goal.