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A motion put forward in the House of Commons by Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett called for the formation of a special committee to conduct hearings on nearly 600 documented cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. The committee would have one year to report its findings and recommendations to parliament. The Conservative government has said they will support the motion.

While this is a small step in the right direction, it falls short of a national public inquiry into the issue, which national Aboriginal groups like the Native Women’s Association of Canada and others have been requesting for a long time. The NWAC has held numerous public forums and meetings with police in an attempt to stop the tragedy, but violence continues to this day. CUPE continues to work with Aboriginal groups and other allies on the issue.

The motion was put forward days after the release of a scathing 89-page report, detailing the mistreatment of Aboriginal women and girls in Northern British Columbia by the RCMP“Those who take us away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia”, released by Human Rights Watch, documents both the ongoing neglect by police to protect Aboriginal women and girls from violence as well as Aboriginal women’s experience with violent behaviour by police themselves.

According to Human Rights Watch, this behaviour has increased indigenous women’s vulnerability to violence, particularly along the 724 kilometre stretch of Highway 16, known as the “highway of tears” due to the high number of women and girls who have been reported missing or dead in the area.