Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, my
question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
For the past year, this government has been telling us that
they are serious about the disturbing issue of missing and
murdered Aboriginal women and girls. They announced in
Budget 2010 that $10 million would be put towards reporting
services, community healing centres and education about
missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
For the past year, myself and other honourable senators
have continued to ask this government where this $10 million
initiative was going. Finally, we were told that money was
not going towards the Sisters in Spirit initiative that has
already laid the groundwork on the issue but, instead, to
the RCMP to set up their own database for missing persons
that may not collect information that identifies victims by
their Aboriginal identity. Reports now indicate that this
database will not be running until early 2013.
Why has the government decided not to use the database
belonging to the Native Women's Association of Canada to
mark progress on whether or not the government is
eliminating violence toward Aboriginal women and, instead,
to start a new database with the RCMP that will not be
operational until 2013?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, this is a serious issue, as has been
mentioned before on both sides.
The Minister of State for the Status of Women and the
Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the
Honourable Rona Ambrose, spoke today at lunch and at a
recent performance of the Atlantic Ballet of Canada on the
subject of violence against women. She outlined many of the
things the government has done.
We take the issue of violence against Aboriginal women
seriously. It is a serious problem. We are addressing family
violence by supporting prevention and providing shelters on
Over the last year, my colleague Rona Ambrose, as
Minister of State for the Status of Women, has committed
over $1.8 million for projects working to eliminate violence
against Aboriginal women. The government is taking several
concrete actions to address the disturbing issue of missing
and murdered women. The $10 million investment announced in
October will create a new RCMP centre, which the honourable
senator mentioned, for missing persons. It will also be used
to improve law enforcement databases to investigate missing
and murdered women; boost culturally appropriate victims'
services; support the creation of Aboriginal community and
educational safety plans to enhance the safety of women; and
create a national website for public tips to help locate
these missing women.
Obviously, honourable senators, the RCMP, as our national
police force, are well equipped and have committed
themselves to being part of this program. I think one of the
problems was that often it was felt these cases did not
receive the attention they deserved. With the Status of
Women Canada now working with the RCMP and this new
database, hopefully this issue can begin to be addressed
because it is impossible to ignore the gravity of this
dreadful situation. However, I believe the government is
moving in the right direction.
Senator Dyck: Honourable senators, Aboriginal
women are the heart of First Nations families and
communities, yet sadly we know that, although they make up
only 3 per cent of the population, they make up about 29 per
cent of the federal prison population and about 90 per cent
of the provincial prison population, especially in the
The government has a tough-on-crime agenda, but what are
they doing to alleviate the effects of such a tough,
heartless agenda on the most vulnerable of Canadian
citizens, Aboriginal women?
Senator LeBreton: I would hardly characterize the
concern and the efforts that the government is making in
this regard as a "tough, heartless agenda." Our tough agenda
is directed at perpetrators of crimes, not the victims of
With regard to the measures the government has taken, the
Native Women's Association of Canada received substantial
funding, $1.8 million from our government, for their new
Evidence to Action II project. Jeannette Corbiere Lavell,
President of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said,
"It is our belief that this announcement proves the strong
commitment of the federal government to end violence against
Aboriginal women and girls."
I would hardly think that the honourable senator's
comments square with the comments of the head of the Native
Women's Association of Canada.