Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 41st Parliament,Volume 148, Issue 26
  Wednesday, November 2, 2011
 
Question Period: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: My questions are for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. My first question may be seen as complimentary.

I was reading a news article that stated that the government is planning to commission stained glass to go over the main entrance to the House of Commons honouring missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Is that true? How does the government intend to involve the families of the missing and murdered women?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I am not aware of that news report. I will certainly take the question as notice and reply by written response.

Senator Dyck: Honourable senators, my second question is along the same lines and has to do with the missing and murdered Aboriginal women issue. As we all know, it was the Sisters In Spirit initiative that provided the first information that opened the eyes of this country to this important national issue. Instead of funding the Sisters In Spirit, the government has chosen to divert the money into the RCMP to set up their own missing persons database, one that may not even collect information that identifies victims as Aboriginal.

Instead of calling for a national inquiry as requested by the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, Amnesty International, KAIROS and hundreds of Aboriginal Canadians, this government seems to have turned a blind eye to the issue in a substantive way.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate indicate why the government has not listened to the families of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and why they have not called and fully funded a national inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women? It is not an issue only in British Columbia; it is an issue across Canada and particularly in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is a national issue. People are begging for it to be looked at in a national inquiry. Can the leader tell us why the government has not done that?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the senator for the question.

I think it is unfair and incorrect to state that we do not take this issue seriously. The senator is quite right; in 2010 we did announce a $10 million investment, over two years, to address the high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. A few examples of these concrete measures include a national support centre for missing persons, a national tip website for missing persons, new community safety plans to enhance the safety of women in Aboriginal communities, and federal funding for culturally appropriate victim services through the provinces and territories.

The Native Women's Association of Canada is receiving substantial funding of $1.8 million in support of their Evidence to Action II project. Honourable senators know full well that the government takes the whole issue of violence against Aboriginal women very seriously. Through Status of Women Canada, over the last two years, $4.5 million has been committed for projects working to eliminate violence against Aboriginal women. As an example of one of these projects, Status of Women Canada is funding a 24-month project with the Girls Action Foundation to prepare young Aboriginal women from urban, rural and remote locations to lead efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls.