2 out of 3 northern women’s groups want a national inquiry

Sharon Armstrong, of Ottawa, takes part in a vigil on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, for Loretta Saunders and to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Not all aboriginal women's group are sure that's necessary. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Sharon Armstrong, of Ottawa, takes part in a vigil on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, for Loretta Saunders and to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Not all aboriginal women’s group are sure that’s necessary. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The N.W.T. Native Women’s Association and the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council are joining the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, but the national Inuit women’s organization isn’t sure an inquiry is what’s needed.

The board of Pauktuutit, made up of Inuit women from across the North as well as representatives from Montreal and Edmonton, has agreed the money could be better spent, according to a spokesperson.

The group cites the housing crisis in the North as well as recommendations already existing that would improve the lives and prospects of Inuit women, such as better emergency services.

For example, 70 per cent of communities in the North do not have a safe shelter for women, despite the fact that the territories have the highest rates of violence against women in the country.

Pauktuutit’s president, Rebecca Kudloo of Baker Lake, Nunavut, wasn’t available for an interview.

According to the spokesperson, Pauktuutit’s board also raised concerns about how Inuit women, scattered in remote communities across the Arctic, could participate meaningfully in such an inquiry, and whether the expense could be justified.

The N.W.T. Native Women’s Association takes a different view.

Jennifer Hunt-Poitras is the group’s interim executive director in Yellowknife.

“A national inquiry raises the profile. It gives credibility. And one of the biggest issues around this subject is the sense that it’s being swept under the rug and a national inquiry raises it to the point where that can’t happen,” she says.

“Why is it that families feel that after their daughters or mothers go missing, the response by the authorities is different than if its a non-aboriginal person? All these issues warrant examination.”

The latest number from the RCMP count 1,186 missing or murdered aboriginal women.

“That should shock people. It should be an outrage and our country should be really responding to that,” Hunt-Poitras says.

In the Yukon, there are 35 confirmed cases of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Marian Horne is president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council.

“It’s critical that we have a national inquiry,” she says. “Even having a national inquiry may be too late.”

In March, an independent researcher, Maryanne Pearce, said she found almost 900 cases of missing and murdered women.

Pearce’s numbers included 20 more cases in Nunavut and five more cases in the N.W.T.

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