Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, my
question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
On March 4, 2010, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced
that the Government of Canada had promised $10 million to
help address the human crisis in Canada concerning missing
and murdered Aboriginal women. Honourable senators, it has
been seven months since that announcement and honourable
senators may be shocked to learn that none of the funding
promised to address this national problem has been
disbursed. Families of missing Aboriginal women have been
waiting, living with pain and immense grief. They have been
waiting far too long for government action.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell this
chamber when the money promised for missing and murdered
Aboriginal women will finally be disbursed so that
Aboriginal families and communities will no longer have to
live quietly in suffering?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, Senator Dyck is quite right; this is a
very sad situation, which is why Budget 2010 committed to
investing $10 million to address this problem. I believe
this is the first time a government has ever made that kind
of a commitment.
The Minister of Justice has been meeting with various
sectors across the country including provincial and
territorial justice systems, public safety agencies,
policing and women's and Aboriginal groups.
I will be very happy to get an update from the Minister
of Justice and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs
on the status of this very serious file.
Senator Dyck: I thank the leader for that answer.
Native women's organizations are concerned that, if and
when the money is finally disbursed, they will be unfairly
put into a race against the clock because seven months of
this fiscal year have already elapsed. They fear that if
money is not spent within the fiscal year, the unspent money
will have to be returned to the government.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate assure us
that there will be a fair time allotment process so that
recipient organizations or communities can continue to do
their important work without fear that the rug may be pulled
out from under them with regard to their funding?
Senator LeBreton: I wish to assure the honourable
senator that those fears are unfounded. This was part of the
budget process. The government is firm with its commitment.
Interestingly, the budget was strenuously opposed by the
opposition in the other place and it took some time to get
it through here as well.
When Senator Dyck is speaking with Aboriginal women's
groups on this serious issue, I urge her to inform the
groups that the government is extremely committed to
disbursing these funds to help resolve this serious
Senator Dyck: On April 21 of this year, Honourable
Senator Lovelace Nicholas asked a question of the Leader of
the Government about funding to the Native Women's
Association of Canada with regard to the Sisters in Spirit
initiative which was researching the issue of missing and
murdered Aboriginal women. At the time, the leader responded
The prudent way to proceed is to put some of this
money to use in the communities and to work with our
Aboriginal partners to resolve these matters, rather
than to study what is known to be a terrible tragedy.
In other words, the leader said the government was tired
of conducting research and wanted to do something active;
they wanted to take action. It has been seven months and we
do not see any action.
Which communities will be helped out with the promised
funding? By the way, I am not in any way promoting
fear-mongering with any of these organizations; I am simply
trying to obtain answers.
Senator LeBreton: I absolutely understand and
appreciate the honourable senator's motives and I do not
question them for a moment, because she has worked extremely
hard on these serious issues.
My words to our colleague, Senator Lovelace Nicholas,
have not changed. I agree that there is only so much study
that can be undertaken on a problem. There needs to be
expenditure of funds to solve some of these problems.
I committed to the honourable senator in my last answer
to obtain up-to-date information, because I know that my
colleagues have been working on this serious issue on many
fronts. I indicated to Senator Dyck that I will be happy to
provide a full update for her as to what actions have been
taken in the various communities, and what the various
provincial and territorial governments have committed to. I
will provide that update by written response.