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Certification hearing begins in MMIWG class-action lawsuit against federal government, RCMP

Click to play video 'Certification hearing begins in MMIWG class-action lawsuit against federal government, RCMP' Certification hearing begins in MMIWG class-action lawsuit against federal government, RCMP
WATCH: A week long hearing will decide if a proposed $600 million class action lawsuit claiming the RCMP mishandled dozens of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls investigations will go to Canada's highest court.

A Federal Court certification hearing in a $600-million proposed class-action lawsuit filed against the federal government and the RCMP began at Regina’s Court of Queen Bench on Monday.

The proposed suit, filed by Tony Merchant, alleges systemic negligence from the RCMP while investigating dozens of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

“We have a whole series of individuals who’ve sworn affidavits of their personal experience about what happened in their dealings with the police,” Merchant said.

He added his arguments over the course of the five-day hearing will focus on the impacts colonialism has on policing in Canada.

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

“We know the huge difference of risks between Indigenous women and girls and other women and girls,” Merchant said.

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“All of these factors have to be considered by the court.”

Diane Bigeagle is the lead plaintiff. Her daughter, Danita, has been missing since February 2007.

While court heard the Regina Police Service launched the initial investigation into Danita’s disappearance, the lawsuit claims Bigeagle spoke with RCMP more than 50 times over the years.

Bigeagle claims that most of the time officers did not seem to listen and only sometimes wrote things down.

Read more: Emily Osmond’s family still wonders what happened 13 years after her disappearance

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.

In a statement emailed to Global News, Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government opposes the certification “for legal reasons that are specific to this case, as it is unprecedented in its breadth, is inconsistent with previous rulings surrounding private duty of care, and contains cases where the RCMP is not the police of jurisdiction.”

Read more: MMIWG findings hang over Canada as country joins Myanmar genocide lawsuit

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There is more that needs to be done by all levels of government to strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples, according to Blair, which includes addressing the recommendations made in the National MMIWG Inquiry.

“This decision in no way lessens the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, nor our commitment to ending this national tragedy,” Blair said.

The proposed class-action lawsuit is seeking $500 million in damages caused by the RCMP’s mishandlings and another $100 million in punitive damages.

Arguments for the certification hearing are expected to finish Friday.

If a judge grants certification, the lawsuit will move forward.

Click to play video 'No government plan to respond to MMIWG report from 2019 disappointing: Lorraine Whitman' No government plan to respond to MMIWG report from 2019 disappointing: Lorraine Whitman
No government plan to respond to MMIWG report from 2019 disappointing: Lorraine Whitman