Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Native women need attention


On the weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama lost his weekly radio spot to his wife Michelle as she took to the airwaves to press for global action over the abduction of almost 300 Nigerian school girls by an African terror group.

The plight of those girls, who were rounded up in the dead of night, has caught the attention of the world - including Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who offered help to the Nigerian government to locate the victims.

The weekend had barely ended, however, before James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, released a report blasting the Canadian government for, among other sins, refusing to call an inquiry into the murder and disappearance of almost 1,200 aboriginal women and girls. In response, Justice Minister Peter MacKay told the House of Commons Monday he was already doing enough and there was no need for more talk on the matter.

To be sure, the government has taken measures to bring greater accountability to those caught harming women, including aboriginal women, and enhancing the rights of women on reserves. But last week, auditor general Michael Ferguson released a report that painted a stark picture of Mr. MacKay's government starving native police services of the ability to act on those enhanced measures.

As is often the case on Canada's reserves, the lack of support from Ottawa has left infrastructure in tatters, including that of the native police services and schools. Rather than step up to the plate on these issues, the Conservative government has been working to transfer liability for those shortcomings to the local bands.

Both the native police service and proposed education agreements carried clauses that could result in a loss of funds if the bands aren't able to meet minimum standards. And in both cases, years of underfunding out of Ottawa almost guarantees many bands will be forced to default. This is a cynical bit of politics designed to transfer blame to the victims.

The arrogant approach espoused by both Mr. MacKay and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt as they brag about all the steps their government has taken, even as people such as Mr. Anaya write reports talking about how the divide between aboriginal people and the government keeps growing, is fuelled by a sense of mistrust.

It is for that reason and to get to the root of why so many native women and girls are targeted that Mr. Anaya, most provinces and a plethora of interest groups have asked for a comprehensive nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal woman and girls.

It is also for the families of people such as Daleen Kay Bosse, Richele Lee Bear and Kelly Nicole Goforth, all three of whom are suspected to have been murdered because of their ethnicity. The latter two have been connected to a single serial killer.

It is laudable the world is watching Nigeria's girls, but statistically it is still more dangerous to be an aboriginal woman in Canada.

The editorials that appear in this space represent the opinion of The StarPhoenix. They are unsigned because they do not necessarily represent the personal views of the writers. The positions taken in the editorials are arrived at through discussion among the members of the newspaper's editorial board, which operates independently from the news departments of the paper.

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