EDMONTON – It’s a campaign that asks men in Alberta to show their support for stopping violence against aboriginal women.
The provincial government, along with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association, wants men and boys to wear moose hide swatches to show support for the cause.
“The more that we talk about the issues of violence against women the better it is,” says David Dorward, associate minister of aboriginal relations. “We need to elevate the understanding that it’s inappropriate, and then to be able to see concrete changes come as a result of that in our society.”
“It’s a time to celebrate because we are taking a look at that and taking a stand and moving towards changing things,” says Merle White, president of the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association.
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As part of the campaign, the province is contributing $75,000 to promote honour and traditional values among boys and men.
“It’s not only a women’s issue and it should never have been a women’s issue,” says Marggo Pariseau with the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women. “It should have been men, family and the community.
“Violence has been around far too long and we don’t talk about it.”
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The RCMP says aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada’s murdered and missing women. They account for more than 15 per cent of the murdered or missing. The latest count shows 1,200 aboriginal women have gone missing in recent decades.
There has been a call from a growing number of groups for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“The province is not opposed to an inquiry but we are moving ahead with initiatives that will recognize that the aboriginal women in the province of Alberta do have higher incidents of violence,” says Dorward.
“It may not resolve, but it would definitely increase the awareness,” says Pariseau.
“If the government says and has an inquiry, it’s saying it’s true, it does exist, and it’s not a part of our imagination and it’s not something we created in our kitchen.”
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The federal Conservatives have resisted calls for an inquiry, saying dozens of studies have already been done and now is the time for action.
The government’s latest budget included a five-year, $25-million renewal of money aimed at stopping violence against aboriginal women and girls.