The number of missing or murdered indigenous women in Canada since 1980, previously estimated at around 1200, could be as high as 4,000, the Canadian minister for the status of women, Patricia Hajdu has said. While she acknowledges the lack of hard data, Hajdu bases this number on research by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and says this could be explained by underreporting or failure to investigate by the police. “When you actually start to add in, you know, disputed cases, for example, people that have claimed it’s a suicide or death due to exposure, but in fact there’s symptoms or signs that maybe it wasn’t, then of course the numbers jump,” she said.
As the government is about to begin a national inquiry into the missing women, Hajdu and indigenous affairs minister, Carolyn Bennett have been meeting with survivors and relatives across the country. “I don’t have the data, but I know the problem is not about us fighting about the numbers. The problem is making sure that these families that lost a loved one, these survivors that are still living, that their stories lead us to the kind of concrete actions that will actually put an end to their vulnerability and what has been going on,” Bennett said, adding that many families were hoping the police would launch new investigations. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said that he wanted a “total renewal” of his country’s relationship with the aboriginal population, announcing the inquiry as one of the “top priorities” for his newly-minted Liberal government, along with a pledge to increase funding for programming and a review of laws on indigenous peoples.