Tired of waiting and pushing for a nationwide federal-led inquiry into why indigenous women in Canada suffer such a disproportionate rate of violence, the Chiefs of Ontario on September 9 kicked off a fund-raising campaign to create a panel of their own.
Given that indigenous women are 4.5 times more likely to be murdered than other women in Canada, and that numerous organizations worldwide have called upon the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to conduct a national inquiry, the chiefs said, the time for talk is ended.
Last year the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issued a report saying that 1,017 aboriginal women had been murdered and 164 gone missing between 1980 and 2012. In addition there were 32 more murders in 2013 and 2014 that were added in via a supplementary report earlier this year, according to The Globe and Mail.
The initial inquiry is specific to Ontario First Nations, but the information will feed into the national inquiry, the Assembly of First Nations said. While not specifying how much money is needed, the chiefs said they needed to act sooner rather than later.
"The urgency of this matter is one that has prompted us to not look at the total cost of an inquiry," Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day told the Canadian Press. "What we're proposing here is we're going to do whatever we can, within our might, with the goodwill of our partners, to establish the beginning phases of that inquiry."
The initiative includes a website where people can donate, as well as read testimonials and view photos from families who were part of a planning gathering held by the Chiefs of Ontario earlier this year. The weekly compilation will include video messages from First Nations leaders, blog posts, promotional videos and an online donation mechanism, the Chiefs of Ontario said.
“This campaign will not only provide much needed funds to implement a call for an Ontario First Nations specific inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls but it will also raise the awareness of the issue on a grander more accessible scale,” Day said in a statement. “We are determined to prompt a national dialogue supporting this vital cause. We know the government will not call an inquiry so we have taken it upon ourselves to lead our own, on our own terms for the benefit of everyone impacted by this national crisis.”
Meanwhile an RCMP database that would help solve some of these cold cases, announced by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2010, has yet to materialize, CBC News reported on August 31. Moreover, it is over budget, having nearly doubled in cost from $1.6 million to $2.4 million, CBC News said. This runs counter to what Indigenous Peoples should expect in terms of security, the fund-raising website states. There is also a #WhoIsShe hash tag.
“Every indigenous woman and girl should feel safe every time of every day in every place in Canada,” says the intro to the site, WhoIsShe.ca. “Our families can’t wait for Ottawa to stop Indigenous women and girls from disappearing. We are planning our own process to bring safety to our peoples.”