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Calgarians join nation-wide march for murdered & missing indigenous women
Published Monday, February 15, 2016 6:49AM MST
Last Updated Monday, February 15, 2016 12:42PM MST
Marches were held across Canada to commemorate the country’s missing and murdered indigenous women and in Calgary hundreds gathered at a southwest church to show their support.
The 8th annual Valentine’s Day Memorial March was held at Scarboro United Church on Sunday night and friends and families of the victims shared stories about their loved ones and comforted one another.
“We share so many different stories, stories of triumph and stories of heartache. It’s just coming together in a good way,” said organizer, Chantal Chagnon.
The first phase of a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women is underway and a pre-inquiry process is expected to wrap up on Monday.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu have been travelling across the country since early December to meet with families and have gathered input on what a national inquiry should look like and what it should attempt to accomplish.
They say they've heard from 1,300 people, many of whom believe police have ignored their concerns about missing or murdered loved ones.
The federal government hopes to have the inquiry up and running by the summer but it must first decide what the inquiry's mandate should be.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke at Vancouver’s march and says the government has identified two key priorities.
“To find justice -- some measure of justice -- for the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, and to collectively work to find solutions to ensure that this tragedy does not continue,” Wilson-Raybould said.
Organizers of the Calgary march say support for the initiative grows every year and that events like this help to bring awareness to the issue.
“Our numbers started very, very small and this year it’s been quite large actually,” said Chagnon. “It’s nice, that actually, it’s in the front of mind for a lot of non-indigenous people as well as indigenous people and it’s very hopeful as the latest government has just done a pre-inquiry into the murdered and indigenous women.”
Chagnon says some of the recommendations that have come out of the national meetings are encouraging.
"To see that they are actively trying to repair those bonds and those relationships that have been really destroyed by years of systemic racism and violence, it's promising, it’s really promising,” she said.
The RCMP has identified 1,181 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Indigenous women make up 4.3 percent of the Canadian population but a 2014 report by RCMP found that they account for 16 percent of female homicides and 11.3 percent of missing women.
(With files from The Canadian Press and ctvnews.ca)