07/30/2013 07:57 EDT | Updated 09/29/2013 05:12 EDT

The Time Is Now to Inquire About Missing and Murdered Women

Imagine your worst nightmare has come true. Your 18-year-old daughter suddenly goes missing. Without a trace. Overcome with fear and paralyzing worry you can think of only one thing: getting her back home safe with you. Days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years. It's a pain deeper than any you've known.

And she's not the only one.

Unthinkably you've met other families experiencing the same nightmare. Hundreds of other families worrying, wondering, grieving. The media has forgotten their names. The government is not interested in answers.

At the beginning of last week we rejoiced with our colleagues upon hearing that Canadian premiers called for an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. "At last," we said. "It's about time." There was a chorus of "it took a room of female premiers to finally do something."

And then in less than 24-hours the Feds dismissed the premier's urgent call to action. Full stop.

The premiers know that without an inquiry we can't begin to truly identify the roots of this epidemic problem and begin to develop a national strategy for solving it. Without an inquiry families can never have answers.

And makes one wonder: why not an inquiry?

If hundreds of white women were murdered and missing would an inquiry be so quickly dismissed? What about hundreds of kindergarten teachers? Or hundreds of fire fighters? Would their names and photos be front page news every day until answers were found? Would the community demand that the government uncover causes and solutions so that no more women were taken or killed?

This is not "an Aboriginal issue." This is a Canadian issue. They are Canadian women and girls. They are daughters, sisters, mothers and aunts who belong to families that deserve to know what happened.

The Canadian Women's Foundation knows that Aboriginal women and girls in Canada face disproportionately high levels of domestic violence and poverty. We have responded to this important need by targeting more than 35 per cent of our funding for programs specifically designed for Aboriginal women and girls.

A few facts about Aboriginal women and girls in Canada:

• There are currently 582 known cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. The United Nations has called upon the Canadian government to take action on this issue, without success.

• An Aboriginal woman is more than eight times more likely to be killed by her intimate partner than a non-Aboriginal woman.

• Aboriginal women are stalked twice as often as other women.

• 36 per cent of all Aboriginal women live in poverty -- this is much higher than the average of 9 per cent for all Canadians.

The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) and other groups have taken extraordinary leadership and have been lobbying the federal government for years to establish a national public inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women.

You can add your voice to NWAC's petition efforts here. Add your outrage. Tell the federal government that these women matter and that we all deserve answers.

The premiers have it right. The time is now. Canada must learn from a national inquiry to stop this epidemic of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Missing and murdered Canadian women.

Margot Franssen, OC

Canadian Women's Foundation Board Member

Sheila O'Brien, CM

Canadian Women's Foundation Board Member

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