July 16, 2014 3:51 am

Rally aims to keep issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in the spotlight

HALIFAX – A rally aiming to keep the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women front and centre will take place in downtown Halifax Wednesday.

A Circle of Hope gathering is scheduled for 1 p.m. inside the World Trade Convention Centre, where the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations is being held.

The issue is a topic of discussion during the Assembly of First Nations meeting in Halifax.

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Organizers say the Circle of Hope is a show of solidarity over the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The rally will include speeches and a round table.

“There’s people that are gathering together to move the issue forward where obviously our government has failed,” said Cheryl Maloney, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

“There’s been national discussions with national Aboriginal organizations so it was a collective effort to come here to Halifax to make a stand in solidarity on the issue.”

Maloney said she wants to send a clear message to the federal government to stand behind a public inquiry. The Harper government has repeatedly said no to one.

“[We are doing this rally] just to make a statement that this is still an issue,” Maloney said.

The RCMP released a report on missing and murdered Aboriginal women in May.

It said “This report concludes that the total number of murdered and missing Aboriginal females exceeds previous public estimates”.

The report found Aboriginal women make up approximately 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women. However, they only represent 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population.

The issue gained traction after the death of Halifax university student Loretta Saunders.

The 26-year-old was killed in February, allegedly by her two roommates, Blake Leggette and Victoria Henneberry. The two face first degree murder charges and are due back in court next week for a preliminary hearing.

Saunders, who was Inuk, had been working on a thesis about missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Maloney is also seeking support for a resolution from the Assembly of First Nations for an access for information request for the RCMP to release more statistics about missing and murdered Aboriginal women and explain the timing behind the collection of their statistics.

In March, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the province was throwing its support behind the cause and called on the federal government to launch a public inquiry.

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