Patty Hajdu, Canada’s minister for the status of women, said on Tuesday that the number of missing or murdered indigenous women in the country could be as high as 4,000. She said that it is difficult to provide the exact figures due to lack of hard data.
The number was derived from a research carried out by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and is much higher that the previously cited figure of 1,200.
The government is planning an enquiry into the matter, for which Hajdu and the minister for indigenous affairs and northern development, Carolyn Bennett, spoke to survivors across the country.
The previous figure of 1,200 missing indigenous women has been derived from a 2014 report of Royal Canadian Mounted Police, that related to the period between 1980 and 2012.
“During those discussions, the ministers have heard from participants that they believe the number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is higher than 1,200,” the BBC quoted Bennett as saying.
She added that the ministers were looking to “examine the causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls and leads to recommendations for concrete actions to prevent future violence. Regardless of the number, the level of indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or were murdered is an ongoing national tragedy that our government is committed to addressing immediately.”
Activists working for Walk 4 Justice initiative began collecting the names of the indigenous women who were missing or murdered but stopped counting after they reached 4,232.
According to Dawn Lavell-Harvard, the president of NWAC, the names were shared with his organisation and also with Chuck Strahl, the former Conservative minister of Indian affairs and northern development. However, he said no further action was taken post that.
Lavell-Harvard noted the need for clear data at the wake of the findings.
“Lives are too important to rely on an informal database,” the CBC quoted her as saying. “The gulf between 1,200 and pushing 4,000 is huge. Even if it is somewhere in the middle, it is still an outrageous number to [not have been investigated] until this point. I think that’s why it’s so important that this inquiry happen.”