Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No unity on plan for slain, missing

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A two-day national meeting on missing and slain aboriginal women in Winnipeg ended late Friday without coming to any firm resolution of what should be done to address the problem.

Instead, participants of the third National Aboriginal Women's Summit agreed more talk is needed -- especially for all the provinces and territories to get on the same page about the need for a national inquiry to examine the issue.

"Obviously, we couldn't figure out everything in two days," said Eric Robinson, Manitoba's aboriginal and northern affairs minister, who co-chaired the meeting.

Robinson said government participants also agreed to meet again in six months and to include all provincial and territorial justice ministers.

"For many years we've been asked to make it a national issue," he said. "I think that we've achieved that."

Much of the focus of the closed-door meeting involved the need for a national inquiry into why so many aboriginal women are victims of violence. It's estimated 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or been slain during the past 20 years.

Robinson, flanked by Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod and New Brunswick Justice Minister Marie-Claude Blais, said some provincial and territorial representatives who attended the summit were not against an inquiry or task force, but said they first needed to get feedback from their respective governments.

He said discussion is needed so the territories and provinces can put up a united front when they press the federal government for an inquiry or task force.

"Anybody can say 'inquiry,' but if we're not specific on what kind of inquiry we're talking about... we got caught up in talking about that a lot today," Robinson said.

The closed-door meeting included aboriginal affairs or status of women ministers from every province and territory and was 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 also took part.

Another aboriginal conference, organized by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and dealing with much the same topic, was held at the Aboriginal Centre, the former Canadian Pacific passenger station, but it wasn't affiliated with the province's summit.

There was a scare Friday afternoon that Manitoba chiefs who were not invited to the province's summit planned to crash it. Extra provincial security and police were called to the Fort Garry Hotel where the summit was being held as a precaution, but nothing happened.

Ottawa has so far rejected an inquiry in favour of funding new initiatives such as a database that allows police forces to share information on cases.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 A4

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