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Old 05-17-2005, 08:58 PM   #1
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New Plan Aims To Track Missing Native Women

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This Message Is Reprinted Under The Fair Use
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FROM: THE TORONTO STAR NEWSPAPER

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...Layout/Article
_Type1&c=Article&cid=1116154865411&call_pageid=968332188774&col=968350116467

May 15, 2005. 05:05 PM

New Plan Aims To Track Missing Native Women


FROM CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA The federal government is set to announce $5 million in spending to
help reduce the lost ranks of murdered or missing aboriginal women.

Sources tell The Canadian Press that Minister Liza Frulla, responsible for
the status of women, will release the five-year plan this week.

It's part of a spending blizzard whipped up by the minority Liberals as they
gird for an expected election. Politics aside, however, the Native Women's
Association of Canada says the cash is needed to send a vital message.

"The value of aboriginal women in Canada is less than every other Canadian
woman," says executive director Sherry Lewis.

"There's a perception out there that we're easy targets, and that nothing
will happen to you if you decide to cause us harm. That's what Canadian people
need to understand."

Her group will use the money to gather case histories on missing women. Those
life stories will be culled for trends that could help shape laws, police
procedure, shelter services and public education.

"We've got women in danger in Canada," Lewis said. "And there's not a public
outcry to do something about it."

She wants to explore how the abusive legacy of Indian residential schools
combined with legally enshrined discrimination in the Indian Act has helped
make native women especially vulnerable.

Amnesty International reported last year that racism and sexism ``flavour"
police investigations of missing or murdered native women.

Researchers spent six months talking to victims' families, aboriginal leaders
and investigators before releasing a report that made several
recommendations.

The Native Women's Association used the document in its push for federal
funding to better document cases and raise awareness.

While police insist they handle each case individually, Amnesty found that
aboriginal women are doubly victimized: racism makes them a target, and it often
means they receive less police and media attention.

Amnesty recommended a national, co-ordinated approach to track native women
who have gone missing about 500 of them over the last 20 years.

Arthur Chartier's ex-wife, Janet Henry, is one of them.

He last saw her about three months before she disappeared in June 1997. They
were married 11 years but had broken up before Henry descended into a life of
drugs and occasional prostitution on Vancouver's Downtown East Side.

"`The whole society needs to change," Chartier said.

"So people start treating people like people. Those women are treated like
animals."

Chartier suspects Henry may have ended up at Robert Pickton's pig farm. She
disappeared suddenly, without a word to the daughter with whom she had always
kept in close touch.

Pickton, of suburban Port Coquitlam, is charged with 15 counts of
first-degree murder. Those victims are among at least 69 women who went missing from the
seedy enclave of flop houses and shooting galleries where Henry spent her last
months.

Police have said their probe of Pickton's property has turned up 31 separate
DNA samples, and that more charges are pending.

Families of missing prostitutes in the Vancouver area, many of them
aboriginal, have publicly complained about inadequate police efforts especially in
the earliest stages of the investigation.

In Edmonton, there are growing fears as the number of women killed in the
region continues to climb.

Ellie May Meyer, 33, this month became the fifth dead prostitute found near
Edmonton since January 2003. Two others have been found near Camrose, Alta.,
less than 50 kilometres away.

In all, 12 women described by police as leading "high-risk lifestyles" some
of them aboriginal have been killed in the area in the last 16 years.

But Edmonton's mayor and its police commission last year denounced
allegations of systemic racism made by the Native Women's Association of Canada.

The claims were also rebuffed by the Institute for the Advancement of
Aboriginal Women, an Edmonton-based non-profit group.

At the time, spokeswoman Muriel Stanley Venne said her group has given awards
to police officers working to solve cases involving slain or missing native
women.
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