Regina mother suing federal gov't, RCMP for $600M over handling of MMIWG investigations

Saskatchewan lawyer Anthony Merchant filed the suit on Diane Bigeagle's behalf on Thursday and is seeking $500 million in damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

Suit seeks $500M in damages, another $100M in punitive damages

Diane Bigeagle is the lone plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. She says it's not about the money, but about her two grandchildren. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

A lawsuit against the federal government and the RCMP over a "negligent" and "lackadaisical" approach to the investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was filed on Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed by the Merchant Law Group on behalf of Diane Bigeagle, whose daughter Danita Faith Bigeagle has been missing since Feb. 11, 2007. Bigeagle is now the caretaker of her two grandchildren. 

The class-action suit is seeking $500 million in damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

"It's not really about the money. It's about what's going to happen to the children," Bigeagle said.

Bigeagle said her grandchildren will be adults when the legal action likely concludes, and that some money may help them move on from their mother's disappearance.

"I can't move on. I'll never move on until I find her," Bigeagle said of her daughter. "I'll probably die not knowing. That's the hardest part, is not knowing."

Court documents allege more than 50 meetings took place between Bigeagle and the RCMP about her daughter's disappearance. It's also alleged the RCMP did not pay attention or take notes during the meetings.

Regina lawyer Anthony Merchant says he hopes the lawsuit sends a message to police that things need to be done better for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Anyone who wishes to be apart of the lawsuit is asked to contact Merchant's law firm. (CBC)

"There are three arms of government: legislature, parliament and judiciary. We want the judiciary to send a message to the RCMP and policing that what's going on is wrong," Merchant said.

"The only way they can do that is to say 'we're going to punish you with an award and then we want you to start acting differently and acting correctly,'" he added.

The suit alleges systemic negligence on the part of the RCMP in investigating cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The lawsuit says family members have been forced to endure mental anguish because of the RCMP's failure to properly investigate and prosecute the disappearances.

"The RCMP has an overall problem, policing has an overall problem. It's not just in Saskatchewan, it's all over Canada," Merchant said.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Department of Justice Canada said they had not yet been served.

With files from CBC and The Canadian Press