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8 Indigenous L. Bull. 6 (2012-2017)
The National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls of Canada: A Probe in Peril

handle is hein.journals/indibull8 and id is 983 raw text is: 



by Jenna Walsh

Throughout  public spaces across Canada, red dresses have been
hung  devoid of embodiment:  the haunting  vacancy serving
to 'evoke a presence through the marking of an absence The
REDress project's creator, Jaime Black, has deemed her work an
aesthetic response to current socio-political frameworks that
normalise gendered and  racialised violence against Aboriginal
women   across Canada. Her objective is to facilitate discussion
surrounding the thousands of Indigenous women that have been
missing or murdered in the last four decades, while providing a
visual reminder of the lives that have been lost. Black's efforts are
one of the many grassroots initiatives that have prompted collective
calls for a federal response to the crisis. These calls have, at last,
been answered. In September 2016, the Government of Canada
launched a two-year Independent National Inquiry into the missing
and murdered  Aboriginal women  and girls across the country,
directing the Commissioners to propose concrete actions to
counteract systemic causes of violence against Aboriginal women.
Since its commencement, however, the Inquiry has been plagued
by criticism, including the charge that community hearings have
adopted  an Anglo-legalist structure which has undermined
attempts to prioritise Indigenous protocols.

This article will provide an overviewofthe context surrounding the
national crisis, as well as outline the bottom-up initiatives which
have provoked a political response. In addition, it will offer insight
into the current state of the Inquiry, including the critiques that
have arisen from within Indigenous communities in response to
its perceived structural and administrative shortcomings.

According to a 2014 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,
almost 1,200 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or
have been  murdered in Canada since 1980.2 However, activists
from the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC') and
Walk 4 Justice initiative claim that the true figure is much higher,
with advocates collecting the names of at least 4,232 women

6    INDIGENOUS LAW BULLETIN July-September. Volume 0, Issue 30

and girls.3 This significant discrepancy is indicative of the many
operational difficulties that have skewed national data sets relevant
to Aboriginal victims. Although Indigenous women are more likely
to be victims of violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts,
the scope of this violence is not easily quantified. This is, in part,
due to inconsistent police practice in collecting information on
Aboriginal identity, as well as under-reporting due to strained
relationships between police and Indigenous communities.4 As a
result, no definitive statistics can be given.

Despite under-reporting, the recorded figures are still alarming.
Although  accounting for only four per cent of the national
population, Aboriginal women represent 16 per cent of Canadian
female homicide victims.5 Consequently, Indigenous women are
at least 4.5 times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous
women   across the country. Of these documented cases, only
54 per cent have led to a homicide charge in instances where
the victim was an Aboriginal woman, compared to the national
indictment rate of 84 per cent.6 British Columbia, in particular,
has borne a heavy burden in the national crisis for its infamous
Highway  16. The route has been deemed the Highway of Tears
for the many murders and disappearances which have occurred
along the approximately 800km stretch of road since the 1960's,
the majority of which have been Indigenous women.There is some
disagreement about the number of unresolved cases within this
route, but Inuit leaders from the region assert that there could be
as many as forty-three or more.'

In the context of Aboriginal communities, violence against
women   must  be understood as both a cause and  effect of
systemic impoverishment. Dispossession from Aboriginal land,
the erosion of traditional customs and paternalistic federal
legislation has contributed to years of marginalization of
Aboriginal peoples, which, in turn, has impaired community
functioning. This often manifests as violence within the family
unit. Although colonisation's ongoing impact on Indigenous

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