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First Nations women participate in the Annual Missing Women's Memorial March (Photo: Film Collins/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

1,100 Missing Indigenous Women Reflects Human Rights 'Crisis' in Canada

UN Special Rapporteur: "Canada faces a continuing crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country."

Lauren McCauley

Human rights violations against members of First Nations tribes in Canada has reached "crisis proportions," says a UN official who on Tuesday released the landmark report, The Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

"It is difficult to reconcile Canada’s well-developed legal framework and general prosperity with the human rights problems faced by indigenous peoples in Canada that have reached crisis proportions in many respects," writes James Anaya, UN special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous people.

Exemplifying that crisis, Anaya notes, is the "disturbing phenomenon" of the more than 1,100 "missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls."

Adding his voice to the growing chorus of those calling for an investigation into the disappearances, Anaya recommends that, "the federal Government should undertake a comprehensive, nation-wide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal woman and girls, organized in consultation with indigenous peoples."

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Commissioner Bob Paulson recently announced that over the past 30 years the federal police force has compiled a total of 1,186 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Of that number, Paulson said, 1,026 have been murdered and 160 are missing.

Despite these numbers, the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly refused to hold a full public inquiry into the deaths.

In March, First Nations protesters held a series of train line blockades calling for justice for the missing women.

In addition to the UN official, the Assembly of First Nations, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, the Council of Canadians and numerous others groups have also voiced support for a national inquiry.

The UN report was one of a series released by Anaya on the opening of the Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held in New York from May 12-23. On May 20, Anaya will discuss his findings at the forum.

Anaya describes the relationship between Canadian First Nations groups and the federal government as "strained," and recommends, among other things, more self-governance for Indigenous people in Canada. With so many people living in what he calls "distressing socio-economic conditions," Anaya writes, "Canada faces a continuing crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country."

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