Winnipeg police to make missing, murdered women cases a priority
Police Chief Devon Clunis 'fully accepts' marching orders from Winnipeg Police Board
Better protecting indigenous women and girls is now a "strategic priority" for the Winnipeg Police Service, which is being ordered to beef up investigations of cases involving missing and murdered women.
Police Chief Devon Clunis said on Friday that he "fully accepts" the resolution put forward by the Winnipeg Police Board.
"We will take the lead on this, but we need the entire community to come along," he said.
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The board's resolution also calls for "better communicate these activities in a manner that does not provide confidential information on, or that could impair, specific ongoing investigations."
It's not just simply a police issue. It's not an indigenous community issue. It is an issue for every single person who calls himself a Winnipegger, a Manitoban, a Canadian.- Devon Clunis
As well, the police board wants the force to improve cultural awareness training for officers and provide better support to victims of violence and exploitation.
The report from the seven-member board comes after Clunis said the city should take a lead role in addressing the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.
The board is recommending that money be freed up from the police budget "in order to support adequate, effective and timely achievement of this strategic priority."
Clunis said officers are already doing everything they possibly can in investigating cases of missing and murdered women.
The police chief said he's not sure yet if meeting the board's directives will mean a bigger budget.
Issue for everyone, says police chief
Winnipeg made national headlines this year over the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in the Red River in August, and the sexual assault of Rinelle Harper, 16, last month.
- Tina Fontaine death renews calls for inquiry into missing women
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In the case of Harper, city police made the unusual move of publicly releasing her name as part of their investigation. Sexual assault victims and minors involved in police cases are usually not identified.
Within days of Harper's name being released, two males were arrested in connection with her case.
Amid the ongoing public debate on whether there should be a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women, Clunis asked the police board for direction in September.
"It's not just simply a police issue. It's not an indigenous community issue. It is an issue for every single person who calls himself a Winnipegger, a Manitoban, a Canadian," he said at Friday's meeting.
Leslie Spillett, a community social worker and activist and a member of the Winnipeg Police Board, says the city is ready to start talking about the issue and its causing factors.
"It is on the radar now. So I believe that things have changed. I think that there has been a significant difference," she said.
Clunis issued a challenge to Winnipeggers to engage in "difficult conversations" and challenge stereotypes and assumptions.
"I think sometimes people simply feel that people choose to be, let's say, a drunk on Main Street or they choose to be involved in, you know, the sex trade — no," he said.
"We need to have those difficult conversations to say, 'Why are individuals living in these conditions?'"
Read the report
Read the Winnipeg Police Board's report with regards to missing and murdered aboriginal women below.