Missing, murdered aboriginal women don't need inquiry: advocacy group

This evening in Ottawa a 24 hour drum circle will begin on parliament hill. Organizers are calling on the federal government to call an national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. But some aboriginal advocates don't believe this is the best course of action.

No More Silence says a national inquiry not the best way to help missing and murdered indigenous women

At a rally last year, Laurie Odjick holds a sign with photo of her missing daughter, Maisy, who went missing along with Shannon Alexander in 2008 at age 16. Today, families of missing women gathered to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Friends and family members will gather in Winnipeg and Ottawa today to call for a national inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women across the country. 

The RCMP recently confirmed that there are 1,186 police recorded incidents of aboriginal homicides and unresolved missing women investigations across the country, a number much higher than previously thought. 

Although that revelation came as a shock to some, advocate Audrey Huntley wasn't surprised.

"Unfortunately it is not something that is lessening or has stopped occurring...,"she said.

Huntley is a co-founder of No More Silence, an organization that raises awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women. She's been advocating on this issue since the 1990s when she was living near the downtown eastside in Vancouver.

"At that time there was hardly any coverage for missing and murdered women and when there was the headline was 'Dead prostitute body found' or this 'Drug addict missing'...,"she said.

In 2006, Audrey took a trip across Canada to meet with families of women who were missing or murdered.

"What was overwhelming was the pain and grief that family members felt. Not only because they had lost a loved one but because of what they experienced as a huge societal indifference to their loss. Basically, in their view, nobody cared. No one had ever demonstrated any care to them."

Lori Whiteman knows that pain. Her mother has been missing since 1995.

"My mom has been missing for a really really long time and I've reconciled that I've done all I can in terms of the leg work with the search," she said.

Now Whiteman is focussed on lobbying for a national inquiry into the issue.

"Families generally do support the call for a national inquiry because their questions are not being answered."

Inquiry money better spent

Kathy Meyers' daughter Angela went missing in November 2010. She isn't convinced an inquiry is the best course of action. 

"I think inquiries cost a lot of money and I don’t know if anything comes out of them. I don’t know if they do anything with the reports or if that’s just another study."

Instead, she hopes that police do more to find missing women.

"Not sure if they have the resources but I don’t know if there could be a dollar amount put on a person. Every day is a struggle."

Huntley used to be one of those supporters calling for a national inquiry. But after the missing women inquiry into serial killer Robert Pickton, Huntley and her organization changed their mind. 

"It wasn't in our view a meaningful inquiry, the people in the downtown eastside refer to it as a sham. A sham that didn't include those who most needed to be heard," she said. "Also, even though some very good recommendations came out of that inquiry I think only three have [been] implemented. Even simple things like a shuttle bus on the highway of tears have yet to be implemented."

Instead Huntley has turned toward more grassroots and community based initiatives but she says the violence against aboriginal women in Canada is getting worse. 

"We've been frustrated to say the least and just working really hard to see what we can do beyond just breaking the silence because obviously just talking about this matter isn't making it stop."

The RCMP is expected to release their full report in the coming weeks.