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Conservatives reject inquiry for murdered, missing aboriginal women

The federal Conservatives rejected appeals for a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women Friday, drawing the ire of aboriginal groups and opposition critics.

By: Alex Boutilier Ottawa Bureau

Toronto Star

OTTAWA—The federal Conservatives rejected appeals for a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women Friday, drawing the ire of aboriginal groups and opposition critics.

A parliamentary report tabled Friday afternoon made 16 recommendations intended to address the violence faced by aboriginal women in Canada, but did not suggest the government set up an independent public inquiry — something that aboriginal groups and others have long called for.

“We continue to be, I find, treated as second-class citizens. You know, an aboriginal woman could be disposed of and that’s it, that’s all,” Claudette Dumont-Smith, executive director of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said Friday.

“There’s no new action, just a continuation of what’s in place . . . . So what’s that going to change, really?”

Citing police data, the report notes aboriginal women accounted for at least eight per cent of homicide victims in Canada between 2004 and 2010, despite accounting for only four per cent of the total female population in the country.

Statistics Canada data has shown aboriginal women are at least twice as likely to suffer domestic violence than other Canadian women, and the report notes aboriginal women are much more likely than other women to be attacked by strangers.

In all, aboriginal women are three times more likely to become the target of violence than non-aboriginal women, according to the government’s data.

Despite those shocking statistics, the report notes that the scope of the violent situations experienced by aboriginal women is not “fully understood or quantified.”

Numerous groups, as well as opposition politicians, have called for a national public inquiry. Justice Minister Peter MacKay rejected the notion on Friday, saying the time for study is over.

“I do not want to stop the action and the forward-looking policies of this government to stop and have an inquiry,” MacKay said in the House of Commons Friday. “I want to say we will keep doing what we have been doing.”

MacKay has said the Conservatives intend to continue “strengthening” Canada’s criminal justice system to respond to the concerns, and pointed to a number of pieces of legislation passed by the government to do just that.

The report noted that the situation facing aboriginal women in Canada is exceptionally diverse, encompassing the experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, as well as those living in urban and rural settings. Indeed, it suggests a national strategy may not even be possible.

“This diversity of experiences makes it impossible to develop solutions solely at the national level,” the report notes. “The most important role the federal government can play is to support initiatives coming from communities themselves.”

In a dissenting opinion from the committee’s report, the New Democrats suggested the government’s response amounted to little more than the status quo.

“What is shocking is that the government continues to ignore the very passionate calls from families across this country that the status quo is simply not good enough,” said the NDP’s aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan).

“We had certainly been hearing that people had been waiting anxiously for this report and they’re simply not going to accept (the) status quo, and so I look for indigenous women and children and their families to have a response to this.”

In addition to a national public inquiry, the NDP are calling for “adequate funding” to address the lack of resources for Aboriginal women’s shelters, for housing, and for education for women and girls.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada has identified at least 582 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women and girls across the country.

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