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MPs and native group want action on violence against women

Groups are once again calling for national public inquiry into missing Aboriginal women

By Trinh Theresa Do, CBC News

Members of Parliament and the Native Women's Association of Canada are calling on the government to act on violence against women by establishing a national public inquiry into the more than 600 murdered and missing Aboriginal women in the country.

At a news conference on Parliament Hill on Thursday, NDP status of women critic Niki Ashton and Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett joined members of the women's association to renew their efforts to draw attention to violence against Aboriginal women.

"There must be action," said Ashton. "There must be a national inquiry."

NWAC is delivering more than 23,000 signatures to the House of Commons in support of the national public inquiry. The organization says the inquiry would be the first step towards a comprehensive national action plan.

Members of a special parliamentary committee on violence against indigenous women are meeting today and will be preparing a report of their work.

But NWAC president Michele Audette is concerned that what comes from the committee will not be enough.

"I'm afraid that it's another report," she said.

The organization has long called for action on missing aboriginal women, and Audette said there hasn't been substantial support from the government.

But in an interview with CBC News, Audette said she was hopeful. She said with the approach of the 2015 federal election, NWAC will be able to build momentum.

"I'm asking all aboriginal women and men to make major change," she said. "We have to influence the platform of each political party."

Audette also met with Status of Women and Labour Minister Kellie Leitch to discuss the possibility of a round-table discussion involving different ministries, including labour, justice and public safety.

"Everything is affecting us," Audette said. "How come only [the department of] Aboriginal Affairs is responsible for us?"

DNA data bank a 'good idea,' Liberal MP says

This week, the federal government announced in its budget the creation of DNA-based missing persons index.

"The data bank is a very good idea," said Bennett. She said it could mean closure for families of victims.

However, at the press conference, Bennett said that money for the index wouldn't flow until 2016.

"How on earth can you create a data bank and look these people in the eye and say, 'You won't see it 'til 2016?'"

Among those who spoke on Parliament Hill was Gail Nepinak, whose 31-year-old sister, Tanya, went missing in Winnipeg in September 2011.

"My family and I, like many families, are looking for answers on what happened to Tanya," Nepinak told reporters.

"We all struggle with the justice system and the police. We want the search for my sister's body to continue, and we want answers."

Last month, the RCMP said it completed a comprehensive file review of murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls within Mountie jurisdiction — more than 400 in all — and will continue to pursue outstanding cases.

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