Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, today is National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.
I first want to start off by offering my support and voice to the thousands of women who are the targets of violence. This is unacceptable, especially in 2016.
On December 6, 1989, a deeply troubled young man with a violent attitude towards women unleashed his disturbed sentiments by killing 14 female engineering students at École Polytechnique de Montréal. In the aftermath of the massacre, we learned that the killer grew up in an environment where abuse against women was common.
Today too many women are still subjected to abuse, including sexual assaults out in our society, in the workplace, and even within their homes.
The situation is even more dire when we look at violence against Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women and girls are three to four times more likely to be murdered or sexually assaulted than any other woman. There are about 1,200 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. This national crisis has prompted the government to create its National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
I would like to congratulate the commissioners of the inquiry: Chief Commissioner the Honourable Marion Buller, and Commissioners Michèle Audette, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras and Bryan Eyolfson. The task ahead of them is tremendously important, and I want to support them and offer them my prayers that they have the strength and wisdom to deal with this horrific tragedy.
Colleagues, recently Statistics Canada confirmed what many of us knew intuitively — that simply being Aboriginal is a risk factor for violence for females but not for males. In order to reduce this risk, I am sponsoring Bill S-215 in the Senate, which will toughen penalties for violent offences against Aboriginal women.
Part of the sad legacy of colonialism is the perception that Aboriginal women are easy sexual targets whom no one cares about. This disenfranchisement and outright discrimination against Aboriginal women as a consequence of the Indian Act make Aboriginal women and girls one of the most vulnerable populations in Canada.
Honourable senators, it is our job to fight for equality and the values enshrined in the Constitution and in the Charter. As a senator, I will continue to champion initiatives that help women, particularly those most vulnerable, such as Aboriginal women, achieve equality and reach their full potential. I thank you for your support in the past and look forward to your continuing support.