Canadian News Probe Gives Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women a Voice

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Canadian News Probe Gives Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women a Voice

Underscoring failures of police, many said the call from CBC News was the first time they had been contacted about their relative

The series features an interactive database, which CBC is hoping to expand, that tells the individual stories of women, their families, and their communities (Screenshot: CBC)

In the face of persistent inaction by the federal government and Canadian law enforcement, the country's largest news broadcaster has launched a nationwide special investigative series that explores the cases of over 200 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, stretching back to 1951.

After an "exhaustive search for families who have lost a relative either to an unsolved killing or whose loved one still remains missing," CBC News has located and interviewed more than 110 families about the cases so far.

Their findings support previous declarations by women's groups, First Nations advocates, and international human rights watchdogs who say that police and government efforts to address the national crisis have fallen far short

In fact, CBC reports, "Many family members and friends of missing and murdered women said the call from CBC News was the first time they had been contacted about their relative."

Chief Andrew Colomb, leader of the Marcel Colomb First Nation, near Lynn Lake, Manintoba, told CBC: "This is the first time anyone has ever called me in regards to what's happened to aboriginal people in the town of Lynn Lake."

According to CBC's reporting, when families were asked to rate the quality of the police investigation in each case—on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being excellent—the average rating was 2.8.

"I feel like the police are not taking interest in anything that has anything to do with the aboriginal people," said Maria Pia Benuen, whose best friend Henrietta Millek disappeared in 1982 from St. John's, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The case, like so many others, has never been solved.

The series features an interactive database, which CBC is hoping to expand, that tells the individual stories of women, their families, and their communities.

The news organization based its initial reporting off a list of missing and murdered women compiled by Ottawa researcher Maryanne Pearce and first made public in 2013. Pearce gave the CBC an updated list in December 2014, at which point the CBC began assessing the cases and trying to find and interview as many family members as possible.

Through checks with police, families, community leaders, organizations, and public sources, CBC News came up with about 230 confirmed cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. 

CBC notes: "About 70 percent of family members expressed the desire for a national inquiry into the issue, a call that has so far been rejected by the federal government."

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