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Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett would not commit on Tuesday to a previously proposed target date of June to unveil a national action plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Ms. Bennett could not say when the action plan would be delivered.

The plan will lay out a path for a response to findings from the government-funded inquiry into the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in Canada.

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In December, Ms. Bennett said she hoped it would be ready for June and said the government had been consulting with Indigenous groups, as well as the provinces and territories, since the release of the inquiry report.

Last June, the commission issued 231 calls for justice – demands of a number of organizations and governments. The goal was for the action plan to be ready within a year of its publication.

Ms. Bennett said Tuesday the Liberal government is aware that the response to the inquiry’s findings are urgent and there is impatience around the need for them to be released.

But she said Ottawa has found that its partners who have been on the front lines in addressing violence against missing and murdered Indigenous women girls are now dealing with keeping their communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Bennett said she has been impressed by the degree of engagement with the provinces and territories, adding that the federal government also recently received reports from Indigenous women’s organizations that received funding after the election that provided insight on what should be included in the plan.

“I think we’re working across all government departments and it has been really impressive for a first-ever national inquiry, for all the partners to understand that they need and want to be part of the response," she said.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) said Tuesday it is distressed to learn that the government will not release the plan in June.

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“We at NWAC do not believe that the pandemic should be used as an excuse for delaying urgent action,” NWAC president Lorraine Whitman said.

“Indigenous women are still dying and disappearing in Canada, families are still being left in the dark about the loss of their loved ones. The time to act is now, not years or even months from now.”

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