Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Despite blizzard-like weather on February 14, I joined with more than a hundred people who gathered at Saskatoon city hall to show support for the families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls and to push for a national commission of inquiry.
The annual Valentine's Day Women's Memorial March originated in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to honour the memory of all women who have died due to violence.
Similar marches and rallies were held across Canada to draw attention to the need for real action and a national inquiry prior to the round table on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls on February 27.
The one-day meeting is bringing together Aboriginal groups and members of federal, provincial and territorial governments to discuss the issue. Many hope the event will lead to a national inquiry, something Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected.
Saskatoon city council, the Saskatchewan government and the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association have called for the federal government to establish the inquiry. At the rally in Saskatoon, Mayor Don Atchison and Minister Don Morgan spoke in support of a national inquiry.
The family of Monica Burns also spoke. Last month, Monica Burns, a 28-year-old mother who grew up on the James Smith Cree Nation, was found dead on a remote snowmobile trail northwest of Prince Albert.
Between 1980 and 2012, though only 15 per cent of the Saskatchewan population is Aboriginal, more Aboriginal women than non-Aboriginal women have been murdered in Saskatchewan: 153 compared to 116.
Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill said at the rally that he disagrees with Harper's assessment of the issue, and he said: "I know the Prime Minister says this is a crime issue. I think it is a systemic issue. It is a poverty issue, an education issue," Chief Weighill said. "It's not crime. We have to get at the root causes."
Honourable senators, Canadians across the country are rallying to support a national commission of inquiry. I hope the Prime Minister puts the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in a priority location in his radar and agrees to such an inquiry.