Between one and seven Aboriginal women go missing or are killed each month, every month, said Michele Taina Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, in her address to Unifor’s Canadian Council.
The organization oversaw the collection of data on missing and murdered Aboriginal women between 2005 and 2010, until funding for the project was cancelled by the Harper Conservative government. A study released in May by the RCMP puts the number at 1,200 over the last 30 years. Audette suggested it could be much higher.
“If the government can hold an inquiry into sockeye salmon in the Fraser River, why don’t our sisters, friends, families and colleagues deserve the same treatment?”
The NWAC has challenged the premiers and territorial leaders to develop strategies to deal with violence towards Aboriginal women, including extreme poverty, lack of educational opportunities and decent housing.
Audette urged Unifor delegates and leaders to not just stand by and witness the ongoing violence. “Help us change our present and help us change our future. Don’t stay as a witness, be active across Canada.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said more can be done to build solidarity between Aboriginal peoples and the labour movement.
“We must get beyond the platitudes that we sometimes exchange between Aboriginal groups and unions,” he said.
Unifor delegates voted to support the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, including the petition and other associated actions.
“If you are Metis, Inuit or First Nations, you’ve been touched by this issue,” said David Ladouceur, Local 1 in Halifax. “We have some beautiful, strong women standing up and leading the fight.”
Joy Thorkelson, of UFAWU in Prince Rupert, said four family members of Unifor members have died or disappeared. “Our brothers and sisters have lost children – our members who work in our fish plants and on the fishing boats.”
To sign the petition: nwac.ca/nwac-petition-national-inquiry-needed.