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