APTN National News
OTTAWA–Holding an umbrella in the rain, Melanie Morrison stood near the concrete steps leading up to the Parliament’s Centre Block where the country’s politicians pass laws and tried not to cry as she talked about her sister, whose bones were found near Montreal by a construction worker last summer.
Tiffany Morrison was 24 and the mother of a four-year-old girl.
“It was a tough loss,” said Melanie Morrison, 37.
Morrison said she was in Ottawa to protest the Conservative government’s decision to cut all funding to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) for anything done under the name Sisters in Spirit, including their much vaunted database of murdered and missing Aboriginal women cases.
She joined about 100 people on Parliament Hill for the rally calling on the government to again fund Sisters in Spirit.
There were almost 600 cases in the database before funding was cut. More cases continue to emerge.
Yearly women’s memorial marches were also held across the country Monday, Valentine’s Day, in cities like Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.
“I am here to support what remains of Sisters in Spirit,” said Morrison. “I am not in favour of the government giving money to (police) for their database because I feel our Native women will not be treated as equally.”
The Conservative government said last fall that instead of funding Sisters in Spirit it would be giving $4 million to the RCMP to set up a missing persons branch with no specific Aboriginal component.
The government also set aside $6 million to fund community anti-violence programs and enhance victim’s services in the West.
At the rally, people held signs and placards reading, “We’re not going away” and “Canada’s shame.”
MPs from the NDP and Liberals pledged their support for Sisters in Spirit. Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Todd Russell led a “justice now” chant.
Later, in the House of Commons during question period, Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose said her government “worked hand in hand and stood shoulder to shoulder” with NWAC. She said the Conservatives had given more money to fighting violence against women than any previous administration.
Ambrose, who was responding to a question from NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, said the government’s money would also go toward the creation of a missing persons website.
Outside, in the rain, one woman accused the government of sabotaging Sisters in Spirit.
“It is really disheartening after all the years of research that Sisters in Spirit and the progress that Sisters in Spirit accomplished to have it all cut and why? Was it because we were getting too close as to why there is a problem in Canada?” said Ellen Gabriel, former president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association and Kanesatake spokeswoman during the Oka crisis. “This is sabotage by a fascist government, a misogynist government, our leader, who doesn’t care about the fact that this problem is not getting better. It is getting worse.”
Tiffany Morrison’s bones were found last summer in a wooded area near the Mercier Bridge that crosses over the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, Que., just south of Montreal.
Branches covered the bones. Morrison was last seen in 2006 after a taxi ride home from Montreal with a man from Kahnawake.
The ongoing investigation is lead by the Kahnawake Peacekeepers with support from Quebec’s provincial police.
Police believe she was murdered, but forensic testing has failed to determine the exact cause of death.
Police are now hoping the killer will confess.