The federal government is facing criticism for leaving Newfoundland and Labrador off the list of locations where it is holding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry design meetings.
Pre-Inquiry meeting are being held in every province except Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The meetings started in Thunder Bay, Ont., in early January, while the last one is scheduled to be held in Ottawa on Feb. 15.
More than a dozen people from Newfoundland and Labrador — including relatives of murder victim Loretta Saunders — were invited to a meeting in Halifax on Wednesday. Their travel expenses were covered by the federal government.
Amelia Reimer, who works with the St. John's Native Friendship Centre, was at the Halifax meeting to offer support to people who were there on behalf of missing or murdered relatives.
"It's a very real concern, you know," said Reimer, adding that she agrees it's a problem that federal officials aren't holding a meeting in her own province.
"Newfoundland and Labrador gets left off the map so often …the Atlantic always get clumped together as one region. So that part is frustrating, absolutely."
'Denied, shamed, silenced'
Reimer says the St. John's Native Friendship Centre has identified 115 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Newfoundland and Labrador, dating back hundreds of years.
"We're a little unique in that we include everyone on the list just because of the unique history of Newfoundland and Labrador is that so many people have had their aboriginal or indigenous backgrounds denied, shamed, silenced," she said.
"A lot of people have had to fight very, very, very hard for their indigenous acknowledgement."
Reimer said a quarter of the 115 cases on the list have been confirmed as having an aboriginal background.
"So because of that we include everyone regardless of ethnic background on our list, just to err on the side of inclusion rather than inadvertently exclude someone who is indigenous and we weren't aware," Reimer said.
"But even going to this meeting and talking with people from Labrador, I was given a couple more names from the past that I have to look into and research and see about getting them on our list," she said.
The federal government says it's holding meetings across Canada with survivors, family members and loved ones of victims, as well as national aboriginal, provincial, and territorial representatives to seek their views on the design and scope of the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
"The Government of Canada believes that an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls can only be designed after hearing from those directly affected," says a statement on the Indigenous and Northern Affairs department website.