The hundreds of aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered top the agenda of a National Justice Forum opening today.
The first day of the forum, put on by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), will be devoted to scrutinizing the issue of violence toward women and the missing and murdered aboriginal women in particular. The day will end with an action plan on the matter, the AFN’s agenda states. The conference runs from February 21–23 in Vancouver.
In opening, Chief Ian Campbell, Squamish Nation, will conduct a ceremony to honor the families of the murdered women. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and Paul Lacerte, B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres–Aboriginal Men Stand Up Against Violence Towards Aboriginal Women, will then conduct a Call to Witness Ceremony and issue a leadership call for a Royal Commission on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women in Canada to be created, the AFN said in its agenda.
The overall goal is to “highlight priority areas for action in achieving safe, secure and thriving First Nation communities,” the AFN said in a press release. The AFN expects more than 500 delegates from national and regional indigenous organizations and those who are working the front lines of the justice system, the statement said. Federal and provincial government representatives will also participate.
“Delegates will be asked to engage in discussions that will lead to the development of a National Justice Strategy and action plan to ending violence against indigenous women,” the AFN said. “Key speakers and presentations will showcase the importance of First Nation-driven solutions and engaging First Nations in achieving solutions that work for their communities. Specific areas of discussion will include community-based programs, diversion, sentencing and alternative measures, policing, crime prevention, courts and corrections.”
Another session will include an update on attempts to solve the cases of the missing women, given by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Chief Superintendent Brenda Butterworth-Carr, and briefings by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Assistant Commissioner Russ Mirasty, Commanding Officer “F” Division, Provincial Missing Persons Task Force.
An examination of how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be used to advance the rights of indigenous women and girls, and a look at the report coming out of the U.N. Expert Meeting on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls will take up the afternoon, along with a look at the U.N. inquiry that is under way into the disappearances and murders.
Other sessions will cover First Nations policing, crisis and emergency response, and an update on the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). The day will also see the launch of a national awareness campaign for missing children, the AFN said.
Closing out the conference will be an appearance by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s three members—Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair, and the two commissioners, Marie Wilson and Wilton Littlechild. They will comprise a panel called Justice and Reconciliation.