Hon. Lillian Eva
Dyck: Honourable senators, my
question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
It is with regard to violence against Aboriginal women.
For those Aboriginal women who have
been physically or sexually assaulted or murdered, the
history across the country, including in Saskatchewan, has
shown that the male perpetrators — usually White men — who
go to trial receive sentences that seem to be too lenient
for the crime that has been committed and for which they
have been convicted. There have been two such cases in
Saskatchewan. With the indulgence of honourable senators, I
will go over them briefly to indicate the seriousness of the
The first example we can refer to as
the infamous Tisdale case. A 12-year-old Aboriginal
girl was picked up by three White men who attempted to
sexually assault her. One of the men was convicted and given
a two-year conditional sentence, served at home; the other
two were acquitted. They went to retrial, where one was
re-acquitted. In a third case, the man was let go because
the jury was hung, and a decision was made not to go to
trial again. Justice was denied to the 12-year-old
In the second example, in Regina,
Pamela George, a 28-year-old mother of two, was beaten to
death by two White men. They were convicted of manslaughter
and sentenced to six and a half years in prison. One of the
men was released after serving four years of his sentence.
It was argued that the charge of first degree murder was not
appropriate because Pamela George was a sex trade worker.
Justice was denied to Pamela George.
How, then, does this government intend
to toughen criminal legislation in order to protect
Aboriginal women, who are five times more likely to die due
to violence than non-Aboriginal women?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of
the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)):
I thank the honourable senator for the question. Violence
against women is a very serious matter. I am well aware of
the incidents that she has cited, including the treatment of
the perpetrators by the courts.
As the honourable senator knows, the
government takes issues of violence very seriously. The
Minister of Justice is undertaking several measures to
tighten up our justice system. We hear complaints throughout
the country asking us to bring in laws but if they are not
implemented they do not provide much satisfaction to the
With regard to violence against
Aboriginal women, I believe the honourable senator asked me
this specific question last fall. At the time, I indicated
that the government is building five new women's shelters
for First Nations communities in British Columbia, Alberta,
Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Indian and Northern Affairs
Canada and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation have been
working with the First Nations on these proposals. Physical
construction of these shelters is expected to start this
The honourable senator's specific
question is complex. We talk about violence against women
and places where women can go to seek safety, and then we
have incidents such as the honourable senator cites where
women are attacked in public. I will certainly bring to the
attention of the Minister of Justice her comments and her
desire to have the justice system further strengthened in
order to protect these people.
I have a supplementary question. Given that the current
crime bill before the House of Commons suggests that there
be an automatic charge of first degree murder if a gang
member kills a police officer, would that sort of strategy
be considered for Aboriginal women who have been murdered?
I will refer the honourable senator's comments and her
question to the Minister of Justice. Within the Criminal
Code, there are various penalties for certain crimes, and
the criteria is obviously something that the Department of
Justice is always looking at. I will be very happy to take
the honourable senator's comments to the Minister of