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The RCMP released new information on Friday about missing and murdered aboriginal women, hundreds of whom have died over the past few decades. (Read Gloria Galloway’s full report here.) Here’s what you need to know to get caught up on the issue.

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(Video: One woman’s story on the last time she saw her missing sister)

Counting the missing

In recent years, the RCMP and others have made varied estimates of how many aboriginal women have been killed or gone missing, and how long it’s been going on. In May, 2014, the Mounties released figures that placed the total at 1,181 cases over 30 years.

The federal government has touted a planned DNA data bank, expected to launch in 2017, as a way to solve the cases of missing women. But a Globe and Mail investigation found that the data bank fell short of the U.S. system that experts consider a gold standard.

Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. (Lyle Stafford for The Globe and Mail)

Placing the blame

Earlier this spring, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt revealed RCMP-collected statistics on violence against native women that found 70 per cent of offenders were aboriginal themselves. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed the minister’s assertion. Several chiefs said the minister should be fired for blaming aboriginal men for the tragedy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde attend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on June 3. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Calls for an inquiry

What Ottawa says: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected calls for a national inquiry into the missing and murdered women, saying the cases should be left to police.

What the TRC says: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tasked with investigating abuses against aboriginal children at residential schools, also looked at the issue of missing women. In its final report issued earlier this month, it drew a connection between violence against native women, residential schools and the “complex interplay of factors” such as poverty and domestic violence. It recommended a commission of inquiry into missing and murdered women.

What the UN says: James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, visited aboriginal communities in six provinces in 2013 to document their living conditions. In May, 2014, he released a report calling for an inquiry into missing and murdered women.

Women in Winnipeg

Calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered women have gained steam in the past year thanks to two high-profile cases in Manitoba: Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl found dead last August, and Rinelle Harper, a 16-year-old who survived a brutal attack last November in which she was left for dead in the Assiniboine River. Rinelle has also supported calls for a national missing-women inquiry.

More on Tina Fontaine:

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Watch: ‘They failed Tina’: Thelma Favel remembers her niece

Before her death, Tina Fontaine stayed at apartment now in sex-trafficking probe

How many more women will it take, asks family of slain teen Tina Fontaine

Amid letters of support and love, Tina Fontaine’s family finds racist hate mail

More on Rinelle Harper:

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Watch: Rinelle Harper speaks out on violence against aboriginal women

Five months later, Rinelle Harper gives a voice to the missing and murdered