Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
First, I would like to congratulate Senator Carignan in his new position.
Honourable senators, on Tuesday, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called on the government to set up a national inquiry into the disturbing phenomenon of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Mr. Anaya stated, and I quote:
. . . a comprehensive and nation-wide inquiry into the issue could help ensure a coordinated response and the opportunity for the loved ones of victims to be heard, and would demonstrate a responsiveness to the concerns raised by the families and communities affected by this epidemic.
The UN rapporteur's comments echo numerous calls from Aboriginal leaders across the country, parliamentarians, human rights groups and, recently, all provincial premiers for the federal government to step up and establish a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
My question to you as Leader of the Government in the Senate is, why didn't the government take the opportunity in this new session to commit to establishing such a national inquiry in the Throne Speech?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): The government's agenda and record on Aboriginal Affairs are quite positive. Our government has focused on the things that matter to Canadians, namely on jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity for all, including our First Nations.
We have introduced many measures for our Aboriginal population, including, for example, those protecting family homes and property rights on reserves. We supported over 400 projects last year to improve the safety of drinking water as well as many other projects addressing youth skills, school infrastructure, improved services for families and fiscal transparency in communities.
Over the last few months, Minister Valcourt has personally consulted with First Nations leaders, educators, technicians and young people in their communities and across the country, to open a true dialogue by talking to them about education. It was the minister who personally heard their complaints if they were not satisfied with the current conditions.
Our government listens. Minister Valcourt listens, and he is in touch with the people. We believe that the minister is in a position to take any measures that are required to continue protecting Aboriginal rights.