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Missing aboriginal women: Ottawa ignored draft report's inquiry recommendation

Calls for inquiry grow after RCMP reveals 1,200 aboriginal women murdered or missing over 30 years

By Rosemary Barton, CBC News

CBC News has obtained a confidential draft version of a special Commons committee report on violence against aboriginal women, which included a recommendation that the government hold a national commission of public inquiry into missing or murdered aboriginal women.

That recommendation was not included in the committee's final report tabled in March.

The Conservative government was again refusing calls to hold a public inquiry Thursday into the issue following a report by broadcaster APTN that said the RCMP's review of police files had uncovered more than 1,000 cases.

The Mounties initially refused to either confirm or deny the report but, according to the Toronto Star, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed the figure to reporters outside a meeting of the public safety committee in Ottawa later in the day.

Paulson said the RCMP's review of police files had found more than 1,000 cases of murdered aboriginal women and girls dating back 30 years, along with another 186 cases of disappearances, the majority of which are suspected to involve foul play, the Star reported.

Asked about the APTN report at the committee, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the RCMP numbers would be released within the next month. But Blaney flat-out refused calls for a national inquiry, instead pointing to anti-crime measures the government has taken.

The draft report obtained by CBC News was prepared by committee analysts who, along with the committee MPs, listened to dozens of witnesses about how to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The draft report was based on testimony from those witnesses, but in the final report prepared by the MPs, the Conservative majority voted to remove the recommendation.

The NDP's critic for the status of women again appealed to the government Thursday.

"Families want closure, they want justice, they want to be heard and they want action from this government. When will this federal government call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?" Niki Ashton said during the public safety committee meeting.

Blaney responded that one missing person was too many and pointed to the government’s move to change matrimonial rights for aboriginal women on reserves to make it easier for women in violent situations to leave.

Final report omits higher estimates

The draft version of also suggested the federal government hold a national meeting led by the families of missing and murdered women and that it create a fund to help victims’ families.

The final report pointed instead to the government's proposed Victims Bill of Rights.

Both opposition parties were clearly displeased with the committee's recommendations and filed dissenting reports.

The NDP said there seemed to be a lack of urgency in the recommendations.

And the Liberals accused the Conservative committee members of partisanship and refusing to “honour the testimony of the witnesses.”

The final report also removes speculative numbers that the instances of missing women and violence may be higher.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada estimated in 2010 that there were 582 missing or murdered aboriginal women across the country. In the draft report, NWAC's director of safety of violence prevention, Irene Goodwin, also suggests the number may be “three to four times higher.”

A suggestion by Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, that two or three Aboriginal women are still disappearing each week, was also removed from the final version of the report.

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