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Indigenous women in prison must have voice in MMIW inquiry: advocates

Sharon Acoose - an Indigenous woman who spent time as a sex worker and in jail - says the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women must work on hearing the voices of those behind bars to explore root causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
Sharon Acoose - an Indigenous woman who spent time as a sex worker and in jail - says the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women must work on hearing the voices of those behind bars to explore root causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

A former sex worker who spent time in jail is urging the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to interview other Aboriginal women who are languishing behind bars.

READ MORE: Manitoba families upset with ‘rushed’ MMIWG inquiry hearings

Sharon Acoose says she was a victim of childhood abuse – and she believes the majority of Indigenous women who end up in provincial jails or federal prisons have also endured emotional, physical and sexual violence.

Sen. Kim Pate, the former executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, says about 91 per cent of Indigenous women in penitentiaries are abuse victims.

Pate says many of the issues that lead to a life on the streets or behind bars are the same as those that lead to missing or murdered women.

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READ MORE: MMIW inquiry moves forward despite calls from aboriginal groups to start over

The inquiry has not responded to requests for comment, but during Senate committee testimony last month, chief commissioner Marion Buller said it has already heard from prisoners and women in the sex trade who want to testify.

She said a statement-taker could be used to meet with the women in safe locations in order to collect their testimony.

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