A parliamentary report on murdered and missing aboriginal women that does not recommend a national public inquiry ignores the pleas of the families who have lost mothers, sisters and daughters, says the head of Canada’s largest native group.
“The special committee on ending violence against indigenous women heard emotional, powerful and constructive testimony and yet it’s clear those voices were not heard,” Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Friday after the release of a report that was a year in the making.
Mr. Atleo said the leadership of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami will meet Monday to discuss the next steps in their effort to convince the Conservative government that a inquiry is the only way to stop the violence.
Opposition MPs on the all-party committee, which was dominated by Conservatives and included six parliamentary secretaries to federal cabinet ministers, were quick to dismiss the document as a whitewash. The New Democrats and the Liberals both issued dissenting reports calling for a national public inquiry.
The official committee report instead recommends a public-awareness campaign, support for the family of victims, support for aboriginal communities, better police data, and action to reduce human trafficking.
Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal critic for aboriginal affairs, said the report mostly urges the Conservative government to stay its course. “When you look at the recommendations, they are all very vague,” Ms. Bennett told reporters. “They are now committing to carrying on what they are already doing.”
Jean Crowder, the NDP critic for aboriginal affairs, said family members and friends of murdered and missing aboriginal women told the committee that the status quo simply wasn’t good enough. “And what we saw today in the House of Commons was a report tabled by the Conservatives that basically said status quo is okay,” Ms. Crowder said.
The federal Conservatives have consistently resisted the call for an inquiry. Justice Minister Peter MacKay argued again on Friday that the government has introduced wide-ranging measures to protect women and bring their killers to justice.
“We have tabled some 30 bills in the House of Commons, taken numerous initiatives across the country to directly invest in programs that help women and girls and especially those on reserve,” Mr. MacKay said. “What we do not need now is to stop and talk and study. We need more action.”
But Claudette Dumont-Smith, the executive director of NWAC, said an inquiry would study every angle of the problem in a way that has not been done before, and could compel people who have important information to testify. “Right now what’s happening is that everything is piecemeal,” Ms. Dumont-Smith said.
The report found that aboriginal women in Canada are more than three times as likely to be the target of victimization as non-aboriginal women.
A recent and comprehensive study by Maryanne Pearce, a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa, found 824 cases in which native women have disappeared or been victims of homicides, dating back to the 1940s, with most of the cases occurring between 1990 and 2013.
Follow me on Twitter: @glorgal