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Missing and murdered Indigenous women

Last week, as part of her pre-election charm offensive, Laureen Harper, the Prime Minister's wife and a well-known cat lover, spoke at Just For Cats, a festival of funny Internet cat videos.

During her remarks, delivered while wearing cat ears, Ms Harper was interrupted by activist Hailey King, who called for the Harper government to devote more resources to the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Indigenous women are twice as likely as other Canadian women to be victims of violence. Hundreds are missing, and Peter McKay, the Justice Minister, recently declined calls for a public enquiry into the problem, saying that the government planned to continue to address the issue through the justice system, instead of the more comprehensive social and educational measures Native women's groups and others are demanding.

Laureen Harper's response to Hailey King? "Tonight we're here for homeless cats." She suggested that missing women could be supported "on another night."

The Native Women's Association of Canada's Sisters in Spirit initiative, whose funding was cut by Stephen Harper in 2010, has a database of 528 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, whose cases remain unsolved. The art installation Walking with Our Sisters, a display of embroidered mocassin vamps, left unfinished to symbolise lives cut short, is currently touring Canada and the US. It opens in Flin Flon, Manitoba, in June.

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