Manitoba's aboriginal and northern affairs minister Eric Robinson said today he believes Ottawa must take action on the issue of missing and slain aboriginal women.
But what form it takes and when still has to be decided, he added.
Robinson is co-chair of the third National Aboriginal Women’s Summit being held at the Fort Garry Hotel. The meeting began Thursday and ends later today. It includes aboriginal affairs or status of women ministers from every province and territory and is the first to focus on missing and slain women.
Family members of missing aboriginal women from across Canada, members of the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Native Women's Association of Canada are also taking part.
Another aboriginal conference, organized by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and dealing with much the same topic, is being held at the Aboriginal Centre, the former Canadian Pacific passenger station, but it isn't affiliated with the province's summit.
"We’ve heard a lot of recommendations from other parts of Canada," Robinson said today after a morning session. "We sadly miss the federal government being here to respond to a lot of this because as province’s and territories we’re awfully limited in what we can commit to."
Robinson said the goal of the summit is for the provinces and territories to come up with a united plan to move forward on the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women. It’s estimated 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or been slain during the past 20 years.
"Ultimately, it requires a relationship between the provinces, territories and the federal government. A lot of the decisions require the federal government."
Two ideas on the table are a national inquiry into the issue or a national task force.
"We have to find some middle ground there as to what we want to proceed with and speak with a common voice when we address the federal government," Robinson said. "I’m hopeful that we can come up with a common mind on some of these issues."
Ottawa has rejected an inquiry in favour of funding new initiatives such as a database that allows police forces to share information on cases.
Three federal cabinet ministers were invited to the Winnipeg meeting, Robinson has said, but sent bureaucrats instead.