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Stories about B.C. missing, slain women 'eerily similar' to Manitoba: AMC

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Manitoba’s provincial Grand Chief Derek Nepinak compared Manitoba to British Columbia in a statement Friday that described the state of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the two provinces as "eerily similar."

"While the stories in the Human Rights Watch report are based in British Columbia, they are eerily similar to the stories we hear from victims, families and friends affected by the missing and murdered indigenous issue in our territories," Nepinak said in a statement released Friday by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Two days ago, a Human Rights Watch report alleged numerous instances of sexual and physical abuse of First Nations women in northern British Columbia at the hands of the RCMP.

A spokeswoman for Nepinak said the reference was about police dismissing reports about missing women.

"Most of the complaints we hear about against police is that they do not take missing reports seriously and even dismiss them," Sheila North Wilson said.

She cited a generally a poor attitude toward aboriginal people and aboriginal women. "Not all officers, of course, but (there are) some who make it hard for some of our people to trust police," she said.

A spokesman for RCMP in Manitoba referred questions to Ottawa headquarters; a spokesperson there was not immediately available. Winnipeg police have yet to respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this week in reaction to the Human Rights Watch report, RCMP Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong said the force wants to get to the bottom of allegations but the Human Rights Watch wasn’t helping police investigate.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also called on the group to share information with police. The prime minister announced at the same time that the government asked the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to look into the B.C. allegations.

In Manitoba, approximately 80 cases of missing and aboriginal women date back decades. They are the long-term focus of a joint RCMP-Winnipeg police investigation set up a few years ago.

The report, meanwhile, has raised the profile of the issue nationally this week and has renewed calls for a national inquiry into approximately 600 missing and murdered women in the country.

"AMC, along with the Southern Chiefs Organization and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak have made repeated calls for a national inquiry... the HRW report gives further evidence for the government of Canada to immediately call (one)," Nepinak said in the AMC statement.

A parliamentary committee was reported Thursday to be close to being struck, its function to try to get some insight into why so many aboriginal women go missing or are murdered in this country.

Kerry-Lynne Findlay, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, told the House of Commons Thursday the Conservatives support the idea of creating a committee specifically to look at the root causes of the issue. Thursday was the inaugural Day of Action in honour of the murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada.

For more than a year, families of victims, aboriginal groups and opposition parties have pressured the federal government to call a national inquiry into the issue, but the government has not agreed.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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