About 500 family members of missing and murdered indigenous women met with B.C. cabinet ministers this week to prepare for a national inquiry promised by the Trudeau government.
“It was very moving, I think, for the families, in terms of giving families an opportunities to provide their voice, to tell their stories about what happened,” B.C. Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad said after three days of meetings in Prince George.
“It was a good exercise for us and it’s information that we will now take forward to the national roundtable coming up later in February in Winnipeg, as well as to B.C.’s input towards the national inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women.”
Also attending were Justice Minister Suzanne Anton and Public Safety Minister Mike Morris, who served as North District Superintendent for the RCMP before being elected MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie in 2013.
Relations with police and domestic violence were among the most sensitive issues discussed.
“There were a lot of challenges that were raised in working with the RCMP in terms of some of the follow-up and other components, and so we have a lot of follow-up work to do with the families as well as with police in general,” Rustad said.
On domestic violence in aboriginal communities, he referred to the annual Gathering of Men organized by Paul Lacerte, executive director of the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. It distributes symbolic moose hide patches.
“Women are bearing the burden of abuse, but they also have to bear the burden of advocacy to affect change, and this is a man’s problem as much as it is a woman’s problem,” Lacerte said at last year’s Valentine’s Day rally at the B.C. legislature. “Violence towards women and children has never been a part of our culture.”
Lacerte said across Canada, aboriginal women aged 15 and older are three times more likely to experience violence and be assaulted by their partners than non-aboriginal women.