A high number of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada needs to be examined in a forum like the United Nations, said the Grand Chief representing a number of northern Manitoba reserves.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief David Harper’s plea for increased international scrutiny of the issue came at a rally attracting about 300 people. The crowd -- which included drummers and riders on horseback -- proceeded from The Forks to the corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street midday Wednesday. Harper said calls by Aboriginal leadership for an inquiry have gone unheeded at the provincial and national level, so they must go to a body such as the United Nations.
"What we’re hearing is that the province doesn’t want to have an inquiry, Canada doesn’t want an inquiry," said Harper. "We’re calling on the international community to say, look, we’ve got to ask Canada for an inquiry."
The issue of murdered and missing women has received renewed prominence recently with the arrest last month of Shaun Lamb for the deaths of 31-year-old Tanya Jane Nepinak, 25-year-old Carolyn Marie Sinclair and 18-year-old Lorna Blacksmith.
Lamb has been charged with three counts of second-degree-murder for the women’s death, and police have established a tips line to find out more information about Lamb. Harper said he’s spoken to candidates gunning for the position of national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) about their views about getting a spotlight on the issue at the United Nations.
A report by the Native Women’s Association of Canada – known as Sisters in Spirit -- published in March 2010 studied more than 580 cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.
The report found "these women represent approximately ten per cent of the total number of female homicides in Canada despite the fact that Aboriginal women make up only three per cent of the total female population in Canada."
It also found "more than half of the women and girls were under the age of 31."
Susan Caribou, an aunt to Nepinak, said she’s had four friends and relatives who’ve been murdered or missing.
She said she’s deeply troubled that Nepinak’s body has not been recovered to date. She said the family has launched their own search, which means going out in the night, a time when sleep is difficult. She said a family member has been in touch with the accused killer, but so far, information provided hasn’t led to the body.
"I just want to find my niece so we can have a funeral, a wake for her and a funeral," said Caribou.
She said the family finds the lack of closure from not having Nepinak’s body "very stressful."