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REGINA, SASK : September 18, 2020 -- Dianne BigEagle holds a photo of her daughter Danita in front of Court of Queen's Bench in Regina, Saskatchewan on Sept. 18. 2020. Danita has been missing since 2007. BRANDON HARDER/ Regina Leader-Post
Dianne BigEagle holds a photo of her daughter Danita in front of Court of Queen’s Bench in Regina, Saskatchewan on Sept. 18. 2020. Danita has been missing since 2007. Photo by BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post

Merchant is arguing Canada’s history of colonialism has played a role in current events and contributes to what is alleged to be systemic negligence by the defendants in this case.

Among his arguments, Merchant referred to significant projects by RCMP targeting the MMIWG problem in Manitoba and British Columbia, stating they’re both examples of good work by the national police force and its partners. But he questioned why such a program was not then broadened in scope.

“Why were there not national programs? …” he said. “They seem to be working. Do we just depend on innovative officers? To know of something better and not do it … is the definition of negligence.”

He referred extensively to reports previously completed, including from the MMIWG inquiry, stating there are many examples of police failing families. He spoke to instances in which families felt ignored or were reportedly told by police their missing loved ones were likely out partying and would return.

Merchant said the duty of police is not to the deceased victim, but to the people around that person, as well as to those considered vulnerable or at risk. He added because Canada has a fiduciary duty to Indigenous people, the RCMP — as an arm of the federal government — has a special duty to Indigenous people.

Merchant spoke to statistics that found Indigenous women and girls have a disproportionately higher chance of becoming victims of violence or homicide than non-Indigenous females.

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