Alberta First Nations 'cautiously optimistic' about launch of missing, murdered Indigenous women inquiry

Members of the province’s aboriginal community say the national inquiry, which is expected to be launched this week, should focus on improving how police interact with families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Concern that ‘dismissive attitude’ of police won’t be investigated in long-awaited inquiry

Details of a federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women will be launched on Wednesday. (CBC)

Members of Alberta's aboriginal community are hoping that police conduct will be investigated and reviewed as part of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Details of the long-awaited inquiry are expected to be released on Wednesday and according to a draft of the terms of reference obtained by CBC News, it would largely focus on violence prevention.

The director of an emergency shelter for indigenous women in Calgary is "cautiously optimistic" about the announcement.

"I've heard time and time again from families not satisfied with the response from the police and [that] it's taken too long for them to respond," said Josie Nepinak with the Awo Taan Healing Lodge.  

"They're not taking seriously, the family's concerns and basically there's this dismissive attitude."  

​Families and advocates expressed disappointment that the draft document makes no specific mention of police investigations, an issue that came up at all 17 pre-inquiry consultations held across Canada earlier this year.

Josie Nepinak (to the right of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi) is the director of the Awo Taan Healing Lodge, an emergency shelter for Indigenous women in Calgary. (Submitted by Josie Nepinak)

'In my heart I know there's a lot of missing pieces'

When Mavis Crowchild's daughter, Rhonda Running Bird, disappeared on a hunting trip south of Rocky Mountain House 21 years ago — RCMP concluded there wasn't enough evidence to determine whether foul play was involved.

Crowchild recalls a comment from one of the officers at the time.

"I asked him, 'So, what do you think happened to Rhonda?' And he said, 'Oh, she must be drunk on the streets in Edmonton, that's why we can't find her'. And it angered me when he said that."

Despite extensive searches, Running Bird's body was never found. Running Bird's brother, Keith, said she had been beaten regularly by her husband.

"The RCMP shoulda did a lot more. You know, they just thought: oh it's another native case," he said.

RCMP declined an interview with CBC News, but did confirm there was a person of interest in the case, who died recently.

"In my heart I know there's a lot of missing pieces there," Crowchild said.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener