July 5, 2018 12:11 pm
Updated: July 5, 2018 7:00 pm

$500M class action lawsuit filed against federal government for MMIW investigations

The Merchant Law Group has filed a lawsuit against the federal government seeking $500 million in damages for the RCMPs handling of MMIW investigations.

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A class action lawsuit has been filed by Merchant Law Group against the federal government for the RCMPs handling of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIW).

The suit, filed by Tony Merchant in Regina’s Court of Queen’s Bench, seeks $500 million in damages for the alleged mishandling of MMIW investigations, and an additional $100 million in punitive damages.

Merchant stated the Crown breached the charter rights of family members to security and to be free from discrimination.

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He said plaintiffs experienced depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of income, loss of enjoyment of life and suicidal thoughts as a result of the alleged mishandled investigations.

READ MORE: ‘I’m sorry’: RCMP pledges at MMIW inquiry to do better on Indigenous issues

The lawsuit claims that as an arm of the federal government, the RCMP shares a special responsibility with the federal Crown for the protection of Indigenous peoples.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The claim references RCMP reports on MMIW investigations, including a 2013 report that lists 225 open or unsolved investigations dating back to 1980. This includes 105 murders and 125 missing people.

READ MORE: ‘60s Scoops class action lawsuit hearings start in Saskatoon

Among the missing people is the daughter of the main plaintiff, Diane Bigeagle. Her daughter, Danita, has been missing since Feb. 11, 2007.

Bigeagle estimates she has met with RCMP more than 50 times over the years. She claims that most of the time police did not seem to listen and only sometimes wrote things down.

She said when Danita first went missing, police were quickly contacted, but her worries were was brushed off with the assurance her daughter would probably be home soon.

In addition to Bigeagle’s case, 35 other MMIW investigations are listed in the claim.

This includes five-year-old Tamra Keepness, who went missing from her Regina home on July 5, 2004.

READ MORE: July 5 marks 13 years since Tamra Keepness disappearance

In making the case, Merchant’s claim repeatedly draws up the “dysfunctional” relationship between Indigenous people and police.

The claim also references how both national and international human rights watch dog groups have criticized high rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Indigenous women and girls represented 23 per cent of Canadian homicide victims in 2013.

Global News has reached out the RCMP and federal government.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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