A Statement by the Minister of State (Status of Women)

    OTTAWA, Aug. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - The following is the text of a statement
by the Honourable Helena Guergis, Minister of State (Status of Women),
concerning the announcement by the Government of Manitoba to launch an
integrated Task Force with Winnipeg Police and RCMP to investigate the growing
number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

    As Minister of State for the Status of Women, I applaud yesterday's
announcement by the Government of Manitoba to create this task force. At the
federal level, our Government continues to work on this troubling issue with
our Aboriginal partners, including the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the
Native Women's Association of Canada. My colleague, the Honourable Peter Van
Loan, Minister of Public Safety, also applauds the creation of this task
force, and he recognizes the hard work that lies ahead if we are to ensure
that justice for the victims and their families will finally be realized.
    Last fall, our Government formalized the partnership with the Assembly of
Manitoba Chiefs by providing funding for its project "Prevent Human
Trafficking: Stop the Sexual Exploitation of First Nations Women and
Children." This funding will make it possible for the group to develop
partnership networks as well as other measures to prevent and protect women
and youth from sexual exploitation and trafficking.
    My colleague, Ms. Joy Smith, the Member from Kildonan St.Paul has also
been a champion for the cause. Her Private Member's Motion M-153 on Human
Trafficking, calling on Parliament to condemn the trafficking of women and
children across international borders, and to adopt a comprehensive strategy
to combat human trafficking worldwide was passed unanimously in the house."
    It is our work with our Aboriginal partners, such as the Native Women's
Association of Canada and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, that has led to the
awareness of this issue by all levels of government including the newly
created Manitoba task force."
    Our Government is also working with the Native Women's Association of
Canada through the Sisters in Spirit (SIS) initiative. An initiative
spearheaded by the Aboriginal community, this is an example of a partnership
that works to create tangible benefits for Aboriginal women. Sisters in Spirit
aims at quantifying the actual number of missing and murdered women by
understanding the root causes of racialized and sexualized violence, and by
implementing a public awareness strategy. Beverley Jacobs, President of the
Native Women's Association of Canada, has spoken about the importance of
Sisters in Spirit. "SIS is centered on the power of voice," said Ms. Jacobs.
"Many of our sisters didn't have a voice before and neither did their
families. That is why (Sisters in Spirit) exists.
    SIS provides comprehensive research into the disappearance of hundreds of
Aboriginal women, and puts the protocols in place for police investigators and
their teams in cracking these cases.
    Our Government believes ending violence against women is a responsibility
all Canadians share. We believe ending violence against women is a
responsibility that can only be achieved through the active participation and
the cooperation of all partners. This includes the necessary involvement of
our provincial counterparts, police investigators, and the RCMP. Yesterday's
announcement in Manitoba underlines that province's ongoing commitment to
address this growing and disturbing trend.
    The decision to establish joint task forces to investigate unsolved cases
is made at the provincial level and depends on whether there is a need in a
particular province.
    For example, this is not the first time the RCMP has been involved in a
joint task force to investigate missing and murdered Aboriginal women. There
are currently task forces in British Columbia and Alberta. In 2007, Manitoba
also completed Project "Disappear," which was an extensive file review of
missing women in the province. In British Columbia, the Joint Missing Women
Task Force (Project Evenhanded), led to the conviction of pig farmer Willie
Pickton, who was implicated in the disappearance and murder of dozens of
women, including Aboriginal women. A similar task force in Alberta (Project
Kare) is investigating cases pertaining to a number of missing Aboriginal
women cases in that province.
    Our Sisters in Spirit initiative, which is the product of a partnership
between Status of Women Canada and the Native Women's Association of Canada,
has been made possible through the Government's support and financial backing.
Our Government is committed to addressing the roots of violence against
Aboriginal women by working specifically with Aboriginal groups. We are
currently supporting the Sisters in Spirit initiative with a commitment of $5
million for the period ending in 2010. We will also continue to support and
work with our provincial colleagues and police organizations across the
country on this very important issue.

For further information:

For further information: Sherine Mansour, Director of Communications,
Minister of State (Status of Women), (819) 956-4000; Chris McCluskey,
Communications, Minister of Public Safety, (613) 991-2865

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