Manitoba family calls Conservative changes 'a slap in the face'
Families say 1,200 cases of missing and murdered women a 'crisis'
The family of a missing aboriginal Manitoba woman says they don't understand how a parliamentary committee could vote to drop a recommendation for a public inquiry from a report on missing and murdered girls and women.
Bernice and Wilfred Catcheway's daughter, Jennifer, disappeared six years ago on her 18th birthday.
Her disappearance remains unsolved. Catcheway is one of more than 1,100 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, a number that RCMP has confirmed and is much higher than anyone has reported to date.
The Catcheways said those numbers are further proof it's a Canadian crisis.
"How many more have to go missing before something is done?" said Bernice.
The family doesn't understand why the parliamentary committee dropped a recommendation for a public inquiry that was originally in a draft report on missing and murdered women.
The draft report obtained by CBC News was prepared by committee analysts who, along with MPs on the committee, listened to dozens of witnesses about how to address the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The draft report was based on testimony from those witnesses, but in the final report prepared by the MPs, the Conservative majority voted to remove the recommendation.
"I felt a slap in the face," Bernice said. "No inquiry? Why not? That's my question. Why not?"
In London, Ont., Prime Minister Steven Harper said instead of paying for an inquiry, the money would be better spent on his government's tough-on-crime agenda and giving police better tools to do their job.
That was cold comfort for Wilfred Catcheway.
"It would give me peace of mind that there's proof they are investigating," said Catcheway. "But I question if they are."
The Canadian Bar Association added its voice Friday to a growing number of people calling for a public inquiry.
Aimee Craft, chair of the CBA's Aboriginal Law Section, said you can't find a solution to the problem without first understanding why so many aboriginal women have gone missing in the first place.
"There needs to be attention paid to the systemic issues that are leading to these murders and disappearances," she said.
Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, the NDP critic for the status of women, repeated her call for an inquiry in the House of Commons on Friday.
"Why are the Conservatives ignoring the police, victims, and the families?" she said Friday. "And why are they continuing to refuse to call a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women?"
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said the Conservative government's handling of the
report is unacceptable and an inquiry is essential.
"I think that the prime minster's response to it is wholly inappropriate," he said. "It's dismissive, as he's always been towards the issue of missing and murdered women."