Inquiry on aboriginal women long overdue

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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Another day, another missing, then murdered aboriginal woman in Canada. Sadly it’s nothing new, and calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women grow louder.

Which raises one question: Why are we still waiting?

The latest victim of violence against an aboriginal woman, actually isn’t a woman. Tina Fontaine was a 15-year-old teenaged girl in Winnipeg who was found wrapped in a plastic bag in the Red River, just days after being reported missing by her foster home after running away.

This time it was Winnipeg, but it just as easily could have been Vancouver, or Toronto or Regina or even Prince Albert.

Women and little girls like Tina have been disappearing and dying violent deaths at an alarming and devastating pace and there just isn’t a fathomable reason for why an inquiry hasn’t already started. What’s the hold-up? Cost? Compared to some of the things our country spends excessive amounts of money on, the lives of hundreds of aboriginal women who have been victimized are worth whatever the cost might be.

According to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, more than 600 native women have disappeared in the last two decades. Think about that number for a second. Every single year, 30 native women and girls disappear, many ending up dead.

According to the late 2014 RCMP report Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Review, native women make up 4.3 per cent of Canada’s overall female population yet they are a whopping 11.3 per cent of Canada’s total number of missing females.

In Saskatchewan, native women make up a larger proportion of this province’s overall female homicide victims between 1980 to 2012 than any other province in Canada. In that period 55 per cent of all female homicide victims in Saskatchewan were aboriginal. Only Canada’s northern territories saw higher percentages of female aboriginal homicides. The Canadian percentage was 16 per cent, which is still a grossly over-represented number.

The RCMP, municipal police forces and provincial governments have all committed to do more on the issue of violence towards aboriginal women, and that is a great starting point. But, it is unclear how the federal government can put off a full federal inquiry any longer.

Just yesterday, Conservative Justice Minister Peter MacKay rejected calls for an inquiry, stating that the federal government is using other methods of dealing with the crisis. Fantastic. Why not combine those other methods with an inquiry?

Federal opposition parties, native leaders, the United Nations, the premiers of Canadian provinces and now the Canadian Human Rights Commission have all demanded a full national inquiry. In fact, as it currently stands, it looks as if the Conservative Party of Canada is about the only entity out there not supportive of such an inquiry.

These women who have disappeared and been murdered don’t have the voice to scream for action, thankfully community leaders at all levels, and of all races, have been screaming louder and louder for them.

What will it take to get the Conservatives to listen and take action.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, do the right thing. It is time for a national inquiry on missing and murdered aboriginal women. Not only is it time Mr. Harper, it is long overdue.

Organizations: RCMP, Prince Albert, Native Women Association of Canada United Nations Canadian Human Rights Commission Conservative Party of Canada Conservatives

Geographic location: Canada, Winnipeg, Red River Vancouver Toronto Regina Saskatchewan

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