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Solutions sought to end violence against aboriginal women

Click to play video: 'Forgotten Voices Pt 3: Solutions sought to end violence against aboriginal women' Forgotten Voices Pt 3: Solutions sought to end violence against aboriginal women
WATCH ABOVE: In the conclusion to Forgotten Voices, Mia Sosiak looks at a haunting murder case in Calgary, and the will to take the first steps towards a solution – Mar 11, 2016

Aboriginal women are four times more likely to be murdered or go missing, but there is hope a national inquiry this summer will answer why and find solutions to the incredibly complex issue.

“If you really want to stop what’s happening you have to look at things like poverty and healthcare and education and employment opportunities and racism,” Alberta Indigenous Peoples Minister Richard Feehan said.

“That’s not just about our government, that’s about our whole society.”

Though many believe the number is higher, there are still 54 unsolved cases in our province.

READ MORE: ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years? The majority of them say ‘dead”: KARE on indigenous Alberta women 

The Alberta government said it’s working directly with families to find the best ways to move forward and offering funding for support services.

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But an advocate for missing and murdered aboriginal women said there should be more of those services available.

Lee Anne Sharp Adze believes a new Canada-wide agency could help families find missing loved ones and offer information and counselling.

“Having that support or that advocate is what they need, so they really need that office developed,” Sharp Adze, who is with the national initiative Sisters In Spirit, said.

READ MORE: Murder victim’s family highlights risks faced by aboriginal women

It’s the kind of service Kaily Bird’s family could have benefitted from after her mother was murdered in an alley in Calgary’s Inglewood neighbourhood in 1999.

Bird said Gloria Black Plume accepted a ride home from the bar with two young men because it was a long walk.

“They brought her to a back alley and beat her, they beat her to death,” Bird said.

“They stomped on her face. At the funeral we couldn’t even open the coffin because her face was so bad.”

One of the men was later convicted of boot-stomping her to death, based on the other’s testimony. He was acquitted in a re-trial.

His lawyer said it was because of overwhelming evidence that he didn’t kill Black Plume. The Defence showed the man’s footwear did not match marks left on her face.

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The other man was never charged because police considered the case solved.

That outcome shattered Black Plume’s loved ones, who felt doubly victimized by the justice system.

“Our family had a lot of anger. My brothers had a lot of anger because these people can just walk away free,” Bird said.

Today, Black Plume’s children still have no justice or closure.

Bird believes that fuelled the addiction and subsequent deaths of three of her brothers, further devastating the family.

For her, the solution lies in awareness.

“It still affects me and I still miss her a lot,” Bird said, fighting back tears.

She has vowed to keep re-telling the painful story of her mother’s murder so Black Plume and other aboriginal women won’t be forgotten.

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