MMIW inquiry details cause for both kudos and concern, Cullen says

TERRACE – MP Nathan Cullen, whose sprawling federal riding includes the dangerous Highway of Tears, voiced both kudos and concerns following today’s long-awaited launch of a federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIW) in Ottawa this morning.

“We heard the good news today that addressing the root causes of violence will be a key task of the inquiry, just as it was a key finding in the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium recommendations that were driven by Ramona Wilson’s mother and sister and family members of other missing and murdered women along Hwy 16,” Cullen said from Terrace today.

“Requiring the MMIW inquiry to thoroughly unpack the deeply rooted challenges that underlie and sustain violence against aboriginal women and girls, from racism to poverty and everything in between, is absolutely a step in the right direction to bring justice to past victims and put future generations on the path to a safer future.”

Cullen noted the 2006 symposium findings that poverty, often intergenerational, is the most significant contributing factor for many of the aboriginal women hitchhiking on Hwy 16.  The symposium report notes the percentage of families living at, or below, the poverty line in First Nations communities is disproportionately higher than any other population segment in Canadian society.

“Of key concern, however, is the fact the MMIW inquiry doesn’t appear to identify a direct role for the provinces and territories, despite underlying problems in provincially-regulated police and child welfare services that can actually increase the risks of violence to already vulnerable Indigenous women and children,” Cullen said.

Other concerns, also expressed today by women’s groups and social service providers, are the narrow focus of the inquiry and limited trauma and support services to victims, families and witnesses expected to testify at the inquiry.

Cullen will continue to work with the families of Highway 16 victims of violence to hold the federal inquiry to account, deliver justice to victims, and secure a safer future for Indigenous women and girls.

The MMIW inquiry launched today will begin Sept. 1 and run until Dec. 31, 2018, at an estimated cost of $53.8 million. In 2014, the RCMP found nearly 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, a number police said exceeded previous estimates.

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Contact:               Shelley Browne, 250-877-4140; nathan.cullen.c1@parl.gc.ca