Indigenous group hopes Loretta Saunders vigil will lead to investigation

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OTTAWA – Indigenous group hopes that a vigil scheduled for Wednesday in Ottawa for a young Inuit woman found killed on the side of a New Brunswick road will prompt the federal government to consider a public inquiry into the murder rates of Indigenous women .

Cheryl Maloney, president of the Native Women’s Association of Nova Scotia, says Loretta Saunders’ death has sparked widespread concern among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians who believe the issue deserves more attention.

“I think Loretta’s case broke a lot of stereotypes about what missing and murdered Indigenous women look like in this country,” Maloney said.

Halifax police allege the Saint Mary’s University student was killed on February 13, the day she was last seen, in a Halifax apartment she once shared with the two people charged with first degree murder in his death. The 26-year-old’s boyfriend said she was on her way that day to check on the apartment which he said she was subletting to the couple.

Saunders’ body was found two weeks later on a median of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Moncton, New Brunswick.

Maloney said her death is a reminder that Indigenous women die violently for a variety of reasons that require further consideration. She said Saunders’ thesis on missing and murdered Indigenous women was not limited to those at risk.

“We talked about three cases in Nova Scotia near my home, said Maloney. “Only one of them led a risky lifestyle.

Between 2000 and 2008, 10 percent of all female homicide victims in Canada were Indigenous women and girls, although they make up only 3 percent of the country’s female population, according to the Native Women‘s Association. from Canada.

Halifax MP Megan Leslie, who will attend the vigil, said that while the details of Saunders’ case are different from those involving Indigenous women – which sometimes involve drug addiction or prostitution – her death is still part of the story. a diagram.

“When you look at the models and you see a model where it is the indigenous women who are murdered more often, when it is indigenous women who disappear, you have to take a step back and see what the big picture is,” he said. said the NDP member. said from Ottawa.

“We need to look at what the systemic issues are here. “

Leslie said Saunders became a catalyst for change as his death touched people across the country.

“Something has captured the imaginations of people here differently,” she said. “I appreciate that, because it means that we are actually talking about his death.”

Last week, an emotional Leslie rose in the House of Commons to call on the federal government to establish a national action plan on violence against women.

A spokeswoman for Kellie Leitch, the federal Minister of Status of Women, did not respond to whether the federal government would launch an investigation into the missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Barbara Mottram said in an email that the government has committed $ 25 million over five years to continue efforts to address the problem, citing initiatives such as a national center for missing persons and supporting the development of pilot projects. school and community education programs aimed at reducing vulnerability to violence among young Indigenous women.

Maloney said a condolence banner will be signed at the midday vigil on Wednesday. She said he will be sent to Saunders’ family in Labrador.

“This young woman devoted her research to the issue of Aboriginal women and to giving a voice to women who no longer had them. That alone tells us that she would like it and I think her spirit is with us, ”she said.

“I find it amazing how far his message went.”


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