.Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, last
week the National Aboriginal Women's Summit was held in
Winnipeg. The summit focused on the issue of the more than
600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. The
Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of
First Nations have called for a national inquiry and a
national action plan. Territorial and provincial ministers
from Justice, Aboriginal Affairs and Status of Women
participated in the summit, but the corresponding federal
ministers did not participate.
My question for the Leader of the Government in the
Senate is this: Could she tell us why Minister Nicholson,
Minister Duncan and Minister Ambrose did not attend the
summit, which was aimed at solving the problem of missing
and murdered Aboriginal women?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
As honourable senators know, the government does attach a
great deal of importance to this very serious issue of
missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The Ministers of
Justice and Public Safety met in Regina at the end of
October with their provincial counterparts where this issue
was a major topic of discussion. The federal government and
the ministries involved are working with our provincial and
territorial counterparts to further develop strategies to
coordinate efforts and share expertise on this issue.
I believe there is a high level of interaction and
cooperation amongst all levels of government. As honourable
senators know, in January of this year, a comprehensive
missing women's report was released providing 52
recommendations. The provinces acknowledged that our
government has already implemented most of these
recommendations at the federal level.
Senator Dyck: I am glad to hear that the
government attaches a great deal of importance to this
issue, but I would like to ask if the leader could find out
and report to this chamber what other activities the
ministers were engaged in that took precedence — in other
words, took priority — over attending this important summit
on missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Winnipeg.
Senator LeBreton: With regard to the participants
at the meeting, I am not absolutely certain how the meeting
was structured, and I am not in a position to comment on the
schedules of the various ministers of the Crown.
The honourable senator knows full well that this is an
issue that I have spoken to many times in this chamber. We
have done a great deal of work in this area, including
creating the National Centre for Missing Persons, funding
the Girls Action Foundation to support young Aboriginal
women and, of course, supporting women's shelters through
the Family Violence Initiative. Those are just a few of
things that the government has done, among many.
Honourable senators would not expect me to know exactly
what the ministers were doing at that time. I am not even
sure of the structure of the meeting as to whether it was
strictly provincial-territorial. I do not believe it was a
federal-provincial meeting. I am quite certain it was not. I
am quite certain it was a meeting of the provinces and
territories. The ministers certainly are supportive and have
worked very closely with the provinces and territories. As I
have already mentioned, the provinces and territories have
acknowledged that there have been great strides made at the
federal level with regard to the 52 recommendations, most of
which have been enacted.
Senator Dyck: I thank the leader for that answer.
I am glad to know that the federal government is undertaking
some initiatives, but the federal ministers were invited. My
question was if the minister could find out — and I do not
expect her to know at this moment — where they were and what
they were doing, and tell us in this chamber what took
precedence over their attendance at this important summit in
Senator LeBreton: There is no doubt that this is
an important summit, honourable senators, but I do believe
that, for anyone who is in public life and who works on
serious issues like this, it is not a question of finding
out about their other activities. That is not the way people
run their lives. They do not miss certain meetings because
others are more important. There might have been other
events; I do not know.
With regard to providing an answer as to what they were
doing in other areas that may have been very important as
well, I do not think it serves anyone's purpose to be
stacking one organization up against another and then
assuming that one is more important than the other. The
important issue here is the full cooperation between the
provinces and the territories, and the fact that the federal
government is taking a lead role in this and that the
provinces and territories have acknowledged it.
Senator Dyck: Honourable senators, I wish to thank
the leader for that answer, but there were three federal
ministers who could have attended: The Minister of Justice,
the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister of
Status of Women. If this issue really were so important, one
would have thought at least one minister could have
attended. Does the leader not agree?
Again, as I pointed out a moment ago, honourable senators, I
do not think it is proper, nor would it be the appropriate
thing to do, to pit any organization against another.
Ministers of the Crown have many responsibilities, senators
have many responsibilities, and members of the House of
Commons have many responsibilities. To assume that because a
certain individual was unable to participate in a meeting
and participated in another meeting would then make one more
important than the other is, I think, improper and
incorrect. I will not go back and start comparing what
ministers do and, somehow or the other, leave the
impression, unfairly, that they do not take this matter