From the front-lines to social media to the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women, many who had been pressuring the government to call for a national inquiry were disappointed.
A long-time, anticipated report from MPs on the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women was tabled Friday. It included 16 recommendations, but did not call on the federal government to launch a public inquiry.
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Shawn Brant and the Tyendinaga blockade
In mid February Mohawk activist Shawn Brant issued an ultimatum for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“The absolutely insulting report put out by the prime minister has just renewed our resilience to see justice done,” said Shawn Brant who has been leading a blockade at an intersection near Shannonville, ONT., since Sunday, Mar. 2.
“This report focuses on our communities when in fact almost three-quarter of murders didn’t happen where these women are from, it happened in the cities where these women moved to… that’s why an inquiry is important,” said Brant.
On Saturday Brant said many people from the Tyendinaga Mohawk reserve came to support him at the Shannonville blockade site and a group moved onto the CN line at about 9:15 a.m., halting VIA Rail trains from moving for over 3 three hours.
“Saturday was about honour. As Mohawk people we fulfilled what we said by bringing honour to the families of the victims and I am very happy and proud the way our community responded.”
Four men, including Brant, were arrested by the Ontario Provincial Police. Brant was charged with three accounts of mischief, detained 30 hours, and released by bail under bond with a promise to appear in a Napanee court April 1st.
Tanya Nepinak’s sister no closer to answers
Gail Nepinak said she was surprised to hear about the news of Friday’s release of the report, which she anticipated since returning from the House of Commons Special Committee meeting in February.
She had hoped a national inquiry would be among the recommendations that would bring her one step closer to the closure she’s been looking for in the last two years of searching for her sister Tanya Nepinak, 31, who was last seen in Winnipeg’s west end neighbourhood on Sept. 13, 2011.
“When I was there at Parliament they made me feel good about myself, they listened to me, but when I got home I felt low again, back to a lower class category,” said Nepinak. When asked about who made her feel “lower class”, her reply was, “the police, I could feel that vibe.”
Tanya Nepinak's body has never been found, but police declared her as a homicide victim when they charged Shawn Lamb with second-degree murder in her death.
Shawn Lamb was sentenced in Nov. 2013 to 20 years for the murders of Carolyn Sinclair, 25, and Lorna Blacksmith, 18. He pleaded guilty for the manslaughter of Blacksmith and Sinclair, but he denied killing Nepinak, his charge in her death was stayed.
“I hear more from the streets about my sister than I hear about from the cops,” said Nepinak who also stressed her concern that the police don’t see credibility in street-wise people who may have tips leading to the whereabouts of her sister.
Nepinak said she and other families of the missing and murdered need funding to continue the grassroots-led searches, but she lacks faith it will be offered by the government.
“We need to find our own government our own authority to do everything, we can’t wait on these people to say ‘yeah go ahead’.”
Audette says next election now crucial
Michèle Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada had high hopes for the report.
“I was shocked, I was mad... also just to see how they gave that title ‘Invisible Women’ it’s just like we’re under the carpet right now.”
In the aftermath of Friday's release, Audette was looking ahead to the next election, which she said was "crucial". She said, in addition to the the national inquiry, there are many needs moving forward.
Audette said there was a need for advocacy groups to influence the next throne speech; more protection for women; for the next budget to allocate increased funds for grassroots women to do their front-line work; more community support services for the families of the missing and murdered; and stronger communication so families are aware of what supports are currently available.
Audette suggested training for police to change how they address cases of missing and murdered women. She noted that there has a slight improvement in dealing with authorities.
“The RCMP, we called them when I got elected, since we start that dialogue it’s getting better, we do initiatives together we influence a little bit...it’s a must that dialogue, it needs to be there all the time.”