Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 59
  Tuesday, May 13, 2014
 
Question: Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

 

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has to do with the missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

It was reported a few weeks ago that the RCMP has documented that there are now close to 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women, a much higher number than they were even previously willing to acknowledge. When the Native Women's Association released their report saying there were 620, the RCMP doubted it, but now they, themselves, are saying it's 1,200.

Despite these new numbers of 1,026 murdered women, this government is saying it will not launch a national commission of inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. Why not?

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator Dyck, as I have repeatedly explained in my answers to your questions, one of our priorities is to crack down on crime, including violence against women and girls.

Our party is still the only party that has taken real action to end violence and keep our streets and communities safe. Over the years, some 40 studies have been carried out on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. It is now time to take action and stop studying the issue.

In Economic Action Plan 2014, we committed to investing an additional $25 million over five years to continue our efforts to address this issue directly, for a total of $50 million.

We also promised to invest $8 million in creating a national DNA-based Missing Persons Index. In addition, we have passed over 30 bills aimed at keeping our streets and communities safe.

I think the government's actions speak for themselves.

[English]

Senator Dyck: Thank you for that answer, but yesterday the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples released his report. In his report, he recommends that the Government of Canada set up a national commission of inquiry to investigate the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal people.

In his report, Mr. Anaya says that even though steps such as those that you listed have already been taken, an investigation into the disturbing phenomenon of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls is still necessary.

He states:

. . . the federal Government should undertake a comprehensive, nation-wide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, organized in consultation with indigenous peoples.

Even now, once again, the UN is saying to launch this inquiry. How can the government still not do this?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: I have answered your question. Over the years, 40 studies have been conducted on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and it is now time for action.

I would like to point out that the report you referred to also recognizes that even though many challenges remain, the government has taken many measures that have improved the prosperity and well-being of all Aboriginal people in Canada.

On page 17 of the report, the rapporteur says:

. . .Canada has taken determined action to address ongoing aspects of the history of misdealing and harm inflicted on aboriginal peoples in the country, a necessary step towards helping to remedy their current disadvantage.

Page 6 of the report states:

Canada undoubtedly has in place numerous laws, policies and programmes at both the federal and provincial levels aimed at addressing indigenous peoples' concerns. Many of these can be pointed to as good practices, at least in their conception, such as Canada's policy of negotiating modern treaties with aboriginal peoples and addressing their historic claims.

As well, page 5 of the report states:

Canada's relationship with the indigenous peoples within its borders is governed by a well-developed legal framework that in many respects is protective of indigenous peoples' rights.

I think it's important to mention the facts and the specific actions the government has taken on this issue. We will continue to study the report, but I think it's important to consider the specific actions our government has taken in this regard.

 

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, one of the problems that we tend to forget about when it comes to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is racism, systemic discrimination within a police force, systemic discrimination within the way we deal with things. We have a thousand murdered Aboriginal women and aboriginals represent only 4 per cent of the population. If we were the entire population, that would be 25,000. If 25,000 White women were missing or murdered, we would be paying attention. But if it's 1,000 Aboriginal women, we don't pay the same attention. That's what this is all about.

How can we continue to deny the importance? You list all these programs and things that you're doing, but none of them are specifically addressing Aboriginal people. I'm sorry; I'm getting frustrated. How can you get up and say you're doing this, because we're not? How can you not call a national commission of inquiry and get at the root causes?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Senator, a national missing persons website was created, and what you're calling for has to do with missing persons. I don't understand how you can say that this doesn't apply to the situation.

We're creating community safety plans in cooperation with Aboriginal communities, so I don't understand how you can tell me today that Aboriginal communities aren't being addressed. I get the impression that we don't read the same newspapers or watch the same news broadcasts.