By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - Pressure is growing on the Harper government to convene an inquest into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
The Native Women's Association of Canada was on Parliament Hill on Thursday bearing a petition with 23,000 signatures on it asking the government to hold a national public inquiry.
Michele Audette, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, says an inquiry is "a must and it's a need."
She promised to make missing and murdered Aboriginal women an issue in next year's federal election campaign.
"The next federal election, I'll make sure everywhere I go, I will ask the women to stand up and vote," Audette said.
"This isn't right. We will be voting either for change or a strong commitment."
It is estimated there are hundreds of cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women dating back to the 1960s.
A United Nations human rights investigator called that statistic disturbing last year during a fact-finding visit to Canada in which he also urged the Conservative government to hold an inquiry.
James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said a national inquiry would ensure a co-ordinated response to the problem and allow the families of victims to be heard.
But while the Conservatives renewed funding to combat violence against aboriginal women and girls in their recent budget, they have so far resisted calls for a formal inquiry.