On August 27, 2014, the Chiefs of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, wrote to the Prime Minister of Canada and urged him to reconsider his position on how to address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people in Canada. Earlier in the month, PM Harper had refused to call for a National Inquiry and said that each case would be treated as a criminal matter.
The Chiefs wrote: “We recognize that you have made some important efforts to address the criminal aspect of these occurrences. However, these measures are not producing any results that are being reflected in lower statistics. Just this month alone the remains of two Indigenous women were positively identified in BC – Samantha Paul and Pamela Napolean; and the remains of one Indigenous girl in Winnipeg were identified as Tina Fontaine. While it is very likely these deaths were a result of a criminal act, we believe that the realities faced by Indigenous people in this country contribute to a higher degree of vulnerability, and this needs to be urgently addressed.
“To this end, we strongly encourage you to begin a dialogue on what actions can be taken in response to addressing these matters in their entirety. We believe that a single approach is not and cannot be the only response.
“Firstly, a National Inquiry is a critical part of an appropriate response to examine how and why the number of missing and murdered Indigenous people increase continues to increase rather than decrease. As weeks pass and the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous people increase, there is a profound sense of urgency. To be blunt, how many more have to go missing or become murdered before something is done about it?
“Secondly, we believe the development of a national Strategy is also necessary so that preventative actions can be developed and taken – actions that are appropriate to us as Indigenous people and our current realities.
“We strongly believe that the responses to this issue cannot be done in isolation by any governments, including ours. The voices of the families and our communities who are directly impacted by the loss of their loved ones are important ones that also need to be heard and included throughout any discussions.”
The Chiefs concluded by stating that are committed to being a part of any efforts and discussions toward solutions that can be developed . They strongly urged the PM to reconsider his response to missing and murdered Indigenous people.
The letter was signed by Treaty 8 First Nations Grand Chief Richard Kappo, Deputy Grand Chief Steve Courtoreille and 6 Chiefs of Treaty 8 Alberta First Nations.