Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 75
  Thursday, June 19, 2014
Question: Public Safety - Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, my questions today are for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

On June 4, 2014, just a few weeks ago, in response to questions put by my honourable colleague and friend the Honourable Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas on the very important issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, you said:

Need I remind the senator she surely read the RCMP report on the subject that, unfortunately, the findings of the inquiry show similar levels of crime, whether we are talking about crimes committed against Aboriginals or non-Aboriginals?

This is the report that you and she were referring to. I would ask all honourable senators in the chamber to get out your iPads, open Safari, type in "RCMP report on missing and murdered women" and it will come up. You can actually look at it and follow along, because I'm going to go through some of the tables and figures. You can actually look at them; it's easier if you look at them.

If we were a modern facility, we would have a nice big screen and I could do a PowerPoint, right?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Mercer: Where's Hugh Segal when we need him?

Senator Dyck: Yes, we would be televised. I'm on a roll here. We would be televised and then all Canadians could be following along "follow the bouncing ball" as we go through the report.

Senator Carignan, I trust your assistant has sent you the link to the report. Let me go through that quote again when you were answering my friend and colleague Senator Lovelace Nicholas:

Need I remind the senator she surely read the RCMP report on the subject that, unfortunately, the findings of the inquiry show similar levels of crime, whether we are talking about crimes committed against Aboriginals or non-Aboriginals?

I would like to know: Do you stand by that response you made to my honourable colleague? I ask you this because I have read through this report. I must admit, I still find it easier to look on paper. If you go to page 9 of the report, there are three columns of text. The last paragraph of the first column on the left-hand side says:

There were 1,017 Aboriginal female victims of homicide during this period, which represents roughly 16% of all female homicides far greater than their representation in Canada's female population as described above.

Now, Aboriginal females represent only 4 per cent of the total population, yet they represent 16 per cent of all homicides. That means there's a four-times-greater number of Aboriginal women in the homicide file.

How can that be similar? Could you answer that question?


Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): I may have been misunderstood, but I never said that the percentage was the same, especially since according to the RCMP report, there is clearly an overrepresentation of Aboriginal women. What I said is that the solve rate was the same. If you read the report, you will see that the solve rate for crimes committed against missing and murdered Aboriginal women and for crimes against non-Aboriginal women is the same.


Senator Dyck: Thank you for that answer. In fact, that is correct. The solve rate between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals is about the same; but that isn't what you said. You said what I just quoted to you, that the crime rates were similar. I would suggest that you contact the staff who sent you that and tell them that the answer they gave you wasn't correct according to the actual data.

Continuing along that same line, let us go to the graphs on page 10 of the report, where figures 3 and 4 quite clearly show, particularly in figure 4, that the proportion of Aboriginal female homicides has been steadily increasing since 1980; and the last date is sometime in 2011. This indicates that the situation is getting worse for Aboriginal women because the rate for non-Aboriginal women in the top graph in figure 3 shows that it's going down. That goes back to the first quote I read, in which you had said it's similar, whereas these graphs show quite clearly not only that more Aboriginal women are being murdered, but also that the rate is increasing over time.

I would hope that you would confirm that those interpretations of the data should go into the record. Would you confirm that, please?


Senator Carignan: Senator Dyck, I have not reread the transcript for that part of Question Period. If it says that the murder or disappearance rate is the same, that is not what I said. That is also not what my notes said. I was talking about the solve rate.

In fact, I thank you for your question because, as a result, I will not have to raise a question of privilege to correct the transcript. As for the government's actions, we believe that it has taken meaningful actions to address the tragic issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

Need I remind you that, yesterday, we passed the budget with Economic Action Plan 2014? The government will spend an additional $25 million over five years to continue efforts in this area and $8 million over five years to create a national DNA-based missing persons index.

On your side, only one person voted in favour of this action plan that includes investments for Aboriginal women, and that was Senator Massicotte.


Senator Dyck: I think you gave a similar response to my honourable colleague, Senator Lovelace Nicholas, a couple of weeks ago referring to the Economic Action Plan, which we just passed. You said there's $25 million over five years to continue efforts to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls; but there are no specifications on where this funding will go and how it will be delivered.

It is totally ridiculous and ironic that the Native Women's Association of Canada, which has been a leader in all of this since 2005, have no idea whether they will get any funding. They've had to lay off virtually all of their staff who work on missing and murdered Aboriginal women. That's why I voted against this budget because the money's there, but I don't see any specific targets. What is the specific program that will address this?

Senator Mitchell: Nail it down.


Senator Carignan: If you continue reading the transcript from Question Period for that sitting in particular, you will see that I responded that funds would go to community organizations that focus on prevention and work with Aboriginal communities. Those organizations will be able to benefit from the $25 million envelope. Would you like me to repeat what you probably read from that day?


Senator Dyck: Honourable senators, following up with regard to communities, in the RCMP report you will also see that they don't have enough data to identify which communities are at risk. That's why we need more data and a national inquiry so we can have programs and projects that work. You can't have the program until you know what the problem is. How can we identify the communities at risk? Even the RCMP says that we need more data.


Senator Carignan: You will also see that in the majority of solved crimes, the victim was related to or knew her attacker. I would simply like to remind you that our government also passed legislation governing matrimonial real property, which gives women living on First Nations reserves the same matrimonial rights as all Canadians, including access to emergency protection orders in violent situations. But once again, you voted against it.


Senator Dyck: I have two questions.

You said in response to my honourable colleague that 82 per cent to 84 per cent of the resolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women involved a loved one or a family member. You probably got this information from the same staff person. This is very misleading.

Figure 8 on page 12 of the RCMP report depicts what you were just talking about. Your figures have collapsed some of the categories. You mentioned "loved one or family member." "Loved one," I guess, according to this, would be a spouse. You collapsed spouse, other family member and acquaintance to get those figures of 82 per cent and 84 per cent.

The figure depicts clear differences between the Aboriginal women who have been murdered and the non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women are most likely to be murdered by someone who's an acquaintance, not a family member or a loved one. For non-Aboriginal women, it's most likely their spouse. There are clearly different patterns. When you lump those together and throw in the acquaintance data, it becomes meaningless. That's why they were separated. That figure is correct in what it says although it left out the "acquaintance" part but it's very misleading because it implies domestic violence in both cases, which is not supported by the data.

I don't see how you can claim that on-reserve or domestic violence is the key factor for Aboriginal women. The data do not support it.

I'm just going to continue because I'm on a roll.

Also on page 12, the last paragraph of the third column states:

Aboriginal female victims were most often murdered by an acquaintance (30% compared to 19%). Breaking this down further, Aboriginal females were more likely to be murdered by a casual acquaintance . . .

not even a close friend someone that they just knew casually. That casts a completely different picture. Therefore I would ask you to reconsider what you say and to reconsider that the murders of Aboriginal women are the same as non-Aboriginal women where domestic violence is the key factor.


Senator Carignan: I'm having trouble following your train of thought. The other thing I'm having trouble with today is the fact that you are asking me these questions, when yesterday you had the opportunity to vote in favour of measures that provide an additional $25 million over five years to continue the efforts that have been made in this area and $8 million over five years to create a national DNA-based index. I find that rather disappointing.


Senator Dyck: I did have a second question along the same line because you mentioned that I didn't support the matrimonial real property bill. You're darn right I didn't and neither did my colleague here, because that same implication was in that bill that Aboriginal women were being victimized by their spouses. We do not have data with regard to the murder rates on-reserve and off-reserve. We don't have that data. We have this RCMP data.

The RCMP should be looking at the factor of race. If I'm married I was married my husband wasn't Aboriginal. What is the percentage of Aboriginal women who are married to non-Aboriginal men? We don't know. My guess would be it's probably quite high, depending on whether it's on-reserve or off-reserve. So a lot of things are missing.

I didn't vote for the matrimonial real property bill because we had already passed a bill. I forget the name of the bill. Senator Kinsella would know. That bill removed section 67 from the Canadian Human Rights Act, which said that Canadian human rights did not apply on reserves. The reason women on reserves didn't have equal property rights was because the Canadian Human Rights Act trumped it by taking it out, saying that all the laws on Indian reserves were exempt. I didn't support the bill because of those reasons and the fact that we didn't really need it because of what we had already passed here in the chamber.

Were you aware that section 67 had been removed from the Canadian Human Rights Act and the great implications it has with regard to your matrimonial real property bill?

Senator Mitchell: He wasn't. He's not aware of it.


Senator Carignan: Honourable senators, what I know is that we are taking meaningful action on this issue. We have passed more than 30 measures on justice and public safety, including harsher penalties for those who commit murder, sexual assault and abduction. We created a national website for missing persons and developed community safety plans in partnership with Aboriginal communities. We supported the development of public awareness materials and passed the matrimonial real property act. What is more, yesterday we approved an additional $25 million to continue our efforts in this area and $8 million for the national DNA-based index. Those are meaningful steps, and what I know is that you voted against them.


Senator Dyck: Thank you. I'm so happy to know you keep track of all the times I vote and what I vote for. Gosh, my goodness. I didn't realize I was that important.

Senator Mitchell: Our whip doesn't even do that!

Senator Dyck: I will once again go back to the RCMP report on page 10, Figure 4, which shows for 1980 to 2011 the rate of female homicides in the Aboriginal group has been increasing. You talk about all the money that you've invested over the years: $50 million over 10 years, $25 million over five years in the 2010 Budget and so on.

Regardless, you put all this money aside in the last seven years since you've been in power, yet the rate of Aboriginal female homicides is clearly continuing to increase as documented by the RCMP. So as a government that prides itself on respecting taxpayer dollars, this level of funding has not achieved a decrease in the rate of Aboriginal female homicides compared to non-Aboriginal women. Wouldn't that indicate your measures aren't working and maybe you're not using your tax dollars to the best possible use?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


Senator Carignan: Senator, you mentioned additional money. It was approved yesterday. You voted against it yesterday. The $25 million envelope is clearly earmarked for the next few years.