British Columbia

UN's calls for inquiry into missing, murdered aboriginal women welcomed by First Nations poet and activist

First Nations poet and activist Lee Maracle said she is "really excited" that the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged Canada Thursday to launch an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Lee Maracle says Canada has to uphold all of the TRC’s recommendations

A woman holds a sign as hundreds of people march through the Downtown Eastside during the 25th annual Women's Memorial March in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday February 14, 2015. The march is held to honour missing and murdered women and girls from the community with stops along the way to commemorate where women were last seen or found. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

First Nations poet, professor and activist Lee Maracle said Canada must heed the United Nations Human Rights Committee call Thursday to launch an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

"There just isn't enough investigation, and there isn't enough concern," Maracle told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

​"It should be considered a national crisis really, it's not just our community that's affected...Canada's reputation globally is really being damaged by its failure [to hold an inquiry]."

Lee Maracle is a poet, author, activist and instructor (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

Maracle, who was one of the first First Nations students in the public school system, was a vocal critic of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the Indian Residential Schools system.

She said it is imperative that the government follows through on the commission's 94 recommendations, which include the creation and funding for new aboriginal education legislation that protects languages and cultures, and the creation of a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

"People have to understand that this is in lieu of court, this is in lieu of us suing Canada's ass," Maracle said. "Unless we get all those recommendations, there isn't going to be equality in this country."

Keynote message at new Coast Salish festival

Maracle, who is a member of the Sto:lo Nation, will be giving the keynote message at a new festival celebrating Coast Salish peoples.

The All Nations Festival in Coquitlam runs from Thursday to Saturday (July 23 to 25), and features performances, panel discussions, art exhibitions and traditional food.

Maracle, who also teaches at the University of Toronto, said her keynote message on Friday evening will discuss the environmental issues facing the world.

"We're facing a mass extinction event and Coast Salish people have experience with this -- all our flood stories talk about it. We have something to offer the world in terms of, 'Look, we didn't learn the last time, let's get it right this time and use art to speak about it."

Maracle also told Cluff that with a federal election slated for October it is important for aboriginal people to participate.

"Join a party and get involved, get talking to people," she said. "Right now they can say only ten percent of native people vote. But if you've got someone in your constituency that's making noise you're going to get somewhere."

Maracle, whose grandfather was Salish actor and Chief Dan George, recently released her latest book, Celia's Song. It has been nominated for a Governor General's award.

To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: First Nations poet Lee Maracle


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