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UN to probe Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women

The United Nations is going to conduct an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women across Canada.

The United Nations is going to conduct an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women across Canada.

“Basically they’re stepping in now and saying, ‘We’ve given you long enough and you haven’t responded to the issue in an adequate or appropriate manner,” said Amanda Mudry, who is with the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council and the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Arguably, Canada has had nearly a decade to make some serious headway on the issue.

In October of 2002, the federal government ratified the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Since November, 2008, national women’s organizations have been in contact with the convention’s committee about Ottawa’s failure to deal with the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Funding for the national aboriginal research organization, Sisters in Spirit, ran out in March, 2010. It has built the most comprehensive database of missing and murdered aboriginal women across Canada and works with victims’ families.

In August, 2010, the UN committee contacted Canada directly, asking for proof that it is implementing its recommendations and addressing the issue.

In October, 2010, Ottawa announced $10 million for missing and murdered aboriginal women, but most of that money is going toward a new national police centre rather than the Sisters in Spirit group.

In September, 2011, national women’s organizations requested the UN committee initiate an inquiry “because of Canada’s failure to act promptly and effectively to address the violations of the human rights of aboriginal women and girls.”

On Tuesday, that request was officially granted.

“It’s a really positive step in the right direction of advancing the equality of aboriginal women in Canada, and particularly us in the Yukon,” said Mudry. There are 29 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women from the territory.

“We know that for too long the epidemic of missing and murdered women has been ignored and unfortunately we get lost in the bureaucracy a lot of the time because one person’s saying, ‘I can’t do this,’ another person’s saying, ‘That’s not my mandate,’ and another person saying, ‘Well, we don’t have any money.’

“It’s really important the UN has stepped up.”

No details or time lines for the inquiry have been released yet but Mudry said Yukoners will be notified about how to participate as soon as the information is available.

The Yukon’s own Sisters in Spirit organization is still going strong, Mudry added. It has enough funding to continue working with families, the RCMP and other territorial organizations for at least another year.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at