Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, my question is addressed to the Leader of the Government.
Last week the Governor General read this government's Speech from the Throne. Under the section entitled "Supporting Victims and Punishing Criminals," there is brief mention of the tragic issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. It reads:
- Aboriginal women are disproportionately the victims of violent crime. Our Government will renew its efforts to address the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
- Canadians also know that prostitution victimizes women and threatens the safety of our communities. Our Government will vigorously defend the constitutionality of Canada's prostitution laws.
I was appalled to hear the issues of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and prostitution spoken one right after the other in the Throne Speech. It gave the impression that missing and murdered Aboriginal women and prostitution are causally related. That is an unfortunate connection that ought to be stopped, as it does not represent the true or complete story of Aboriginal women who have been disappeared or murdered.
So my question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate is this: The government has pledged to vigorously defend its prostitution laws, but why hasn't it pledged to vigorously defend Aboriginal women from being made missing or murdered?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): The Speech from the Throne was very clear about our position on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. We are determined to put an end to any type of violence against women and girls. We are extremely concerned about this serious issue. We have taken practical measures by investing significant amounts to address the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.
As the Speech from the Throne mentioned and as the practical measures we have taken show, we support the family violence prevention program, which gives funding to shelters and initiatives that work to prevent violence against women living on reserves.
We introduced a number of measures — at least 30 — pertaining to justice and public safety, including stiffer sentences for murder, sexual assault and kidnapping. This situation is of great concern to us. We want the practical measures that have been implemented to have an impact and we want to continue in that direction. That is why this issue was included in the Throne Speech.
Senator Dyck: Thank you for that answer. You know, it actually gets worse in the speech. First it talked about missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and then it talked about prostitution. Then, right after the sentences on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and prostitution, the Speech from the Throne continued with this statement:
Finally, our Government recognizes the daily risks taken by police officers and their service animals. It will bring forward Quanto's law in honour of them.
Honourable senators, some of you may not know that Quanto was a police dog. So we had Aboriginal women, prostitution and dogs all together in the Throne Speech: very appalling.
So my question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate is this: The government will bring forth legislation to honour police dogs; why isn't it bringing forth legislation to honour missing and murdered Aboriginal women?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Carignan: This is a tragic situation. It is unfortunate that you are trying to impute inappropriate motives to the government because of the way a speech was worded. Our government wants to take action with regard to the tragic issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. As I said, we recently passed a law that gives women living on First Nation reserves the same matrimonial rights as all Canadians, including access to emergency protection orders. Many measures — at least 30 — have been introduced to protect women who are the victims of violence, sexual assault or kidnapping. We are taking this matter to heart and I hope, honourable senator, that the elements included in the Throne Speech will reassure you of the government's steadfast commitment in this regard.