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The following is the text of a statement by the Honourable Helena Guergis, Minister of State (Status of Women), concerning the announcement by the Government of Manitoba to launch an integrated Task Force with Winnipeg Police and RCMP to investigate the growing number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.As Minister of State for the Status of Women, I applaud yesterday’s announcement by the Government of Manitoba to create this task force. At the federal level, our Government continues to work on this troubling issue with our Aboriginal partners, including the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Native Women’s Association of Canada. My colleague, the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety, also applauds the creation of this task force, and he recognizes the hard work that lies ahead if we are to ensure that justice for the victims and their families will finally be realized.
Last fall, our Government formalized the partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs by providing funding for its project “Prevent Human Trafficking: Stop the Sexual Exploitation of First Nations Women and Children.” This funding will make it possible for the group to develop partnership networks as well as other measures to prevent and protect women and youth from sexual exploitation and trafficking.
My colleague, Ms. Joy Smith, the Member from Kildonan St.Paul has also been a champion for the cause. Her Private Member’s Motion M-153 on Human Trafficking, calling on Parliament to condemn the trafficking of women and children across international borders, and to adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking worldwide was passed unanimously in the house.”
It is our work with our Aboriginal partners, such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, that has led to the awareness of this issue by all levels of government including the newly created Manitoba task force.”
Our Government is also working with the Native Women’s Association of Canada through the Sisters in Spirit (SIS) initiative. An initiative spearheaded by the Aboriginal community, this is an example of a partnership that works to create tangible benefits for Aboriginal women. Sisters in Spirit aims at quantifying the actual number of missing and murdered women by understanding the root causes of racialized and sexualized violence, and by implementing a public awareness strategy. Beverley Jacobs, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, has spoken about the importance of Sisters in Spirit. “SIS is centered on the power of voice,” said Ms. Jacobs. “Many of our sisters didn’t have a voice before and neither did their families. That is why [Sisters in Spirit] exists.
SIS provides comprehensive research into the disappearance of hundreds of Aboriginal women, and puts the protocols in place for police investigators and their teams in cracking these cases.
Our Government believes ending violence against women is a responsibility all Canadians share. We believe ending violence against women is a responsibility that can only be achieved through the active participation and the cooperation of all partners. This includes the necessary involvement of our provincial counterparts, police investigators, and the RCMP. Yesterday’s announcement in Manitoba underlines that province’s ongoing commitment to address this growing and disturbing trend.
The decision to establish joint task forces to investigate unsolved cases is made at the provincial level and depends on whether there is a need in a particular province.
For example, this is not the first time the RCMP has been involved in a joint task force to investigate missing and murdered Aboriginal women. There are currently task forces in British Columbia and Alberta. In 2007, Manitoba also completed Project “Disappear,” which was an extensive file review of missing women in the province. In British Columbia, the Joint Missing Women Task Force (Project Evenhanded), led to the conviction of pig farmer Willie Pickton, who was implicated in the disappearance and murder of dozens of women, including Aboriginal women. A similar task force in Alberta (Project Kare) is investigating cases pertaining to a number of missing Aboriginal women cases in that province.
Our Sisters in Spirit initiative, which is the product of a partnership between Status of Women Canada and the Native Women’s Association of Canada, has been made possible through the Government’s support and financial backing. Our Government is committed to addressing the roots of violence against Aboriginal women by working specifically with Aboriginal groups. We are currently supporting the Sisters in Spirit initiative with a commitment of $5 million for the period ending in 2010. We will also continue to support and work with our provincial colleagues and police organizations across the country on this very important issue.
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Senior Special Assistant Communications
Office of the Minister of State (Status of Women)
Communications, Minister of Public Safety
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