Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, tomorrow, Friday, December 6, is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This day was established by the Parliament of Canada to mark the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at École Polytechnique de Montréal. They were murdered by a misogynist who targeted them because they dared to study in an area traditionally seen as a male domain.
As honourable senators know, violence against Aboriginal women is a national disgrace. On October 4, Member of Parliament Dr. Carolyn Bennett and I invited families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women to Parliament Hill for a round-table discussion with parliamentarians. The event began with a smudging ceremony. This was an historic event, as it was the first time that an Aboriginal smudging ceremony was allowed to take place inside the Aboriginal Peoples Room in Parliament. We also hung prayer cloths in the traditional colours of the medicine wheel in the four directions.
It was fitting that these Aboriginal traditions took place in the Aboriginal Peoples Room. Elders Thomas Louttit and Irene Lindsay conducted the smudging ceremony to cleanse our spirits, our hearts, our bodies and our minds, and to create a sacred circle for families to share their stories, for us to hear them and for a good outcome.
The families told us that they wanted a national inquiry on missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and they also had other wide-ranging suggestions on ways to help families like themselves. They suggested that legislation could be developed to address the need for time off from work, and EI benefits, to address health insurance for PTSD or other health-related effects due to these traumatic events; to address the lack of rights of the parents of the missing or murdered Aboriginal person, including custody and visitation of children of the missing or murdered person, and burial arrangements.
They told us that funding for grassroots support groups and for conducting searches for the missing or murdered Aboriginal women was needed. They also told us that more police training is needed in several areas, such as how to deal with cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, how to conduct searches in Aboriginal communities, how to have better communication and updates with families, and how to interact respectfully and listen to families.
There was broad consensus that families feel invisible and unheard, the severity of their loss denied and the depth of impact on families ignored. They expressed a need for ways to protect children of missing and murdered Aboriginal women from re-victimization by the media coverage of the stories during court proceedings. At the same time, they suggested public education programs to raise awareness. The family members stated that an intergenerational cycle of re-victimization is occurring.
I want to thank Elders Louttit and Lindsay, the Native Women's Association of Canada, and families of Sisters In Spirit for their participation at the round table, and the family members who shared their ideas and stories with us. I hope that all honourable senators take to heart what these families have shared and that we can work together to implement their suggestions.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!