OTTAWA - The Assembly of First Nations says the recent murder of a 16-year-old native teen is yet another reason Ottawa should call a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
National Chief Shawn Atleo said Sunday the death of Summer Star Elizabeth Krista-Lee Fowler in British Columbia has triggered an overwhelmingly painful reminder of losses suffered by other families whose loved ones have disappeared or been killed.
The addition of Fowler, also known as "CJ", to the lengthy list of women has prompted him to urge Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make the matter a higher priority in order to prevent further crimes.
"I am profoundly saddened and offer my personal support and that of the Assembly of First Nations to the family of CJ Morningstar Fowler and her community," he said in a statement. "A death such as this touches us all."
Over the past week, members of the assembly gathered and committed to renew efforts to seek safety and justice for aboriginal citizens, as well as accountability for those who have died.
Aboriginal groups want an inquiry into an estimated 600 aboriginal women who have disappeared or been killed in the last two decades.
However, last month a meeting of provincial cabinet ministers only decided to debate the issue further in the spring. The ministers have said they want to take action to reduce the number of women who fall victim to violence each year.
B.C. Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould said far too many young aboriginals are dying in tragic circumstances.
"We can and must do better as a society," she said, "so that others do not fall victim to the same tragedy of a system that ignores or treats differently those in society that are its most vulnerable."
Board members of the Native Women's Association of Canada were meeting Sunday in Ottawa and added their voice to calls for the inquiry.
The body of Fowler, a member of the Gitanmaax First Nation in Hazelton, B.C., was discovered by a man walking his dog in Kamloops on Wednesday.
An autopsy confirmed it was homicide, although RCMP wouldn't release details of how the teen died. The girl's great uncle said Fowler's death may have been connected to drugs.