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Updated: Fri, 04 Oct 2013 15:15:05 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Rallies honour missing, murdered aboriginal women and girls



Laurie Odjick holds a photo of her daughter, Maisy, who disappeared in 2008 at age 16. Julie Van Dusen/CBC

Laurie Odjick holds a photo of her daughter, Maisy, who disappeared in 2008 at age 16. Julie Van Dusen/CBC

Canadians are rallying in over 200 locations today to honour and remember the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls as they have annually for the past eight years on Oct. 4.

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Missing, murdered Aboriginal women honoured in Sudbury

Dozens of families gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa recounted the stories of the missing or murdered women in their lives, often breaking down into tears as they plea for the federal government to take action and call a national public inquiry.

Politicians and aboriginal leaders also took part in the Sisters In Spirit Vigil in Ottawa, an event organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. 

National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo called on Canadians to take notice. 

Canada faces "a grave human rights crisis," Atleo said.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also spoke at the rally, accompanied by NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder and NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar.

A young woman named Caitlin Tolley spoke in honour of her grandmother, Gladys Tolley, who she said was killed by a Quebec provincial police officer over 10 years ago.

"My family is still hurt by the loss of my grandmother that was taken from me at a young age. We are still demanding an inquiry and a followup into her case."

"Today I would like to ask Mr. Harper, how many times must we come and stand out here, and call and demand for an inquiry for our women," Tolley told a crowd gathered on Parliament Hill.

Tolley called on all political parties to "do the right thing."

Dawn Lavell-Harvard, the interim president of NWAC, also spoke at the rally.

She said the case of missing or murdered aboriginal women is not a women's issue or an aboriginal issue but rather "a human tragedy" and "a national disgrace."

The interim president said, "The time has come for us to put aside the wrangling over jurisdiction, our concerns about political stripes, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, to raise our voices and to make sure the memory of those women carry on."

National public inquiry

The NWAC has said it has documented over 600 cases where aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing between 2005 and 2010 — a number the RCMP has told CBC News it can't confirm.

The association has been calling on the federal government to launch a national public inquiry into the case of missing or murdered aboriginal women.

Canada's premiers agreed, this summer, to support aboriginal leaders in their call for a national public inquiry during a two-day summit of the Council of the Federation in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in July.

While the federal government has yet to agree to call a national public inquiry, in a written statement sent to CBC News, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said: "The Government of Canada is deeply concerned about the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, and we are taking firm action to achieve lasting change."

"This includes the 2010 introduction by our government of a seven-point strategy that improves the response of the law enforcement and justice systems to better meet the needs of aboriginal women, girls and their families."

Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett and Liberal Senator Lillian Dyck, who is a member of the Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, are also expected to speak at the rally. Green Party member Lorraine Rekmans had also confirmed her attendance.

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