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Canstar Community News
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This article was published 4/11/2010 (3643 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- The agency whose research put the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women onto the public agenda won't be allowed to continue collecting data on missing women under a new funding agreement.
Sisters in Spirit, an initiative of the Native Women's Association of Canada, spent the last five years developing an extensive database of nearly 600 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada going back several decades. Seventy-nine of the women are from Manitoba, the third highest number of any province. The figure includes cases such as Claudette Osborne and Jennifer Catcheway, who both disappeared without a trace in 2008, and Hillary Angel Wilson and Cherisse Houle, friends who were both found murdered within weeks of each other in 2009.
Annual reports produced by Sisters in Spirit garnered a lot of public attention, forced governments to acknowledge the issue as real and convinced police forces to take reports of missing aboriginal women more seriously.
But the five-year mandate expired last March and hasn't been extended.
Instead NWAC has been offered $500,000 from the Women's Community Fund to go forward with the next project, From Evidence to Action.
Established in 2010-11, the fund provides grants to eligible organizations seeking to advance equality for women. But the money cannot be used for research or domestic advocacy including lobbying the federal, provincial or municipal governments.
Research and advocacy were at the core of the Sisters in Spirit initiative.
Last March, NWAC was hopeful of a renewed mandate for Sisters in Spirit when the government pledged $10 million in the federal budget to address the "disturbingly high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
But when Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose made the details of that fund public last week, neither the database nor Sisters in Spirit were among the recipients.
The money is going to a number of initiatives including $1 million for school and community projects to provide alternatives to high-risk behaviour for aboriginal women, $1.5 million to improve safety for aboriginal women on reserves, and $4 million for a National Police Support Centre for Missing Persons, which is a support centre to help the Canadian Police Information Centre capture additional data about missing persons and create a national registry for missing persons and unidentified remains to help police investigations across jurisdictions.
A spokeswoman for Ambrose said Thursday the government is still negotiating with NWAC.
"Our discussions for future collaboration with them are ongoing, and their contribution to addressing this serious issue will continue to be invaluable," said Rebecca Thompson in an email.
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