The RCMP says it will develop closer working relationships with First Nations groups in a joint effort to solve cold case files on the epidemic of missing and murdered native women in Canada.
The RCMP will establish a working database of missing persons and unidentified remains in partnership with the Sisters in Spirit database, once the negotiations are completed with the Native Woman’s Association of Canada.
Supt. Brenda Butterworth-Carr, the RCMP’s Director General of National Aboriginal Policing and Crime Prevention Services said the force is creating a national work plan with the cooperation of the Assembly of First Nations, and though it is not the task force that many native women’s groups have called for, the work plan is a start.
When Harper allocated $10 million to the cause of missing and murdered women most of it went to the RCMP for their missing persons and unidentified remains database. Butterworth-Carr made it clear that there would be a strong emphasis on missing Native women within this database.
“It is our biggest priority that we at the RCMP deal with the violence Native women deal with every day,” she said. The mandate is to work with native women’s groups across the country. The goal is to build communication with concerned groups, and to use the media to raise awareness of the crimes committed against Native women.
There are other projects across Canada looking into the issue of missing and murdered native women, including a joint task force in Manitoba between the RCMP and the Winnipeg police service called Project DEVOTE, which investigates old homicides and missing person cases. There is the E-Pana task force in BC which has a task force of dedicated officers who are going over cases found on the highway of tears between Prince Rupert and Prince George, as well as investigations in central and northern BC. Others include Project Kare, a joint task force between the RCMP and the Edmonton Police which deals with high-risk cases, and Project Even Handed, which is investigating the 60-plus cases from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
When Shannon Alexander, 17, and Maisy Odjick, 16, went missing near Maniwaki, Quebec, on September 6, 2008, it went almost unnoticed. It was a week before the mainstream media picked up the story and reported that the two teens were missing. There was no Amber alert or a massive search with hundreds of volunteers. The community and family members did not see the usual media stakeouts or police task force created to deal with the disappearances.
Violence against native women is still a reality in Canada, as is the general public apathy concerning the issue. Families and Aboriginal women’s groups hope this collaboration will grow into a force that will make a difference for Canada’s Native women and the sisters who fell victim to as yet unknown predators