Missing aboriginal women a low priority

How quickly does the Whitehorse RCMP respond to reports of missing aboriginal women? Across Canada, police tend to wait a week, said Don Wright.

How quickly does the Whitehorse RCMP respond to reports of missing aboriginal women?

Across Canada, police tend to wait a week, said Don Wright.

“There is no national protocol for dealing with reports of missing aboriginal women,” said Amnesty International’s regional development co-ordinator, who is in Whitehorse to support the newly formed Amnesty action circle and promote its film festival this weekend.

“Hundreds of aboriginal women and girls have gone missing, disappeared or been murdered over the last three decades,” he said. “And there is no national plan to address violence against women and girls.”

There is a shortage of shelters for women and girls and there have been cuts to frontline women’s organizations, he added.

“Although this is one of the causes Amnesty champions in Canada, the organization tends to have a broader international focus.

“Our responsibility is to speak out on behalf of those who can’t speak out for themselves,” said Wright, mentioning Syria, the Guantanamo Bay US detention facility and China.

The Yukon chapter, formed a year ago, can choose to champion whatever it wants, added Wright.

It may be writing letters about war crimes in the Congo, Israel’s blocking of Gaza’s fuel or the civilian cost in the Russia/Georgia conflict.

In Canada, some Amnesty groups have also met with local police chiefs to discuss protocol around missing aboriginal women, he said.

“And we’ve seen individual police departments change their procedures. Those that used to wait a week are now changing their procedures because of widespread public pressure.

“But it’s up to each Amnesty group what interests them and how far they go — not everyone is comfortable visiting the chief of police.”

Wright had not heard about Angel Carlick, the 19-year-old First Nation girl who went missing in Whitehorse on May 31st, 2007.

More than five months later, her body was found near Pilot Mountain on November 8th.

The coroner’s report was inconclusive.

There has been no further information about the case.

In many cases, aboriginal women are pushed into poverty, said Wright.

“And Canada has done no work to look at the causes and human rights violations that push them toward poverty and further vulnerability of attack.”

Amnesty is looking at the RCMP’s use of Tasers as well.

“They’re used too quickly and too often,” said Wright.

The organization is also studying national refugee issues and calling for the repatriation of Omar Khadr, 22, who has been held in Guantanamo Bay for the last six years.

Amnesty members fight injustice with words, tirelessly writing letters. And it makes a difference, said Wright.

“It is possible for things to change.”

And if people lose their motivation, or start to feel like their work is useless, Wright hopes the second annual Whitehorse film fest will help “respark” people.

The Amnesty International Film Festival is running from November 28th through 30th at the Old Fire Hall.

Admission is by donation and nonperishable food donations are encouraged.

For more information about Amnesty International’s local action circle contact Tory Russell at 633-3171.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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