Momentum for national inquiry builds on day of premiers' meeting

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger echoed growing calls for a national inquiry Tuesday on the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada.

Selinger, Native Women's Association of Canada advocate Michele Audette support calls for inquiry

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger echoed growing calls for a national inquiry Tuesday on the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada. 2:01
Michele Audette with the Native Women's Association of Canada disagreed with Harper's assessment and believes the case of Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women needs to be addressed in the form of a national inquiry. (Native Women's Association of Canada)
Manitoba Premier Greg
Selinger is on his way to Prince Edward Island for a meeting of Canada's premiers Tuesday, and he said he's glad to hear other premiers coming out in support of a national inquiry into Canada's murdered and missing aboriginal women.

"Clearly we have to do everything possible everyday to protect people from being victimized in this way, going missing, being murdered, no question about that," said Selinger. "On the other hand, we need to get at the deeper causes."

In light of the recent death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, Selinger said Friday it's time for an inquiry – and other premiers have echoed that sentiment. Selinger reiterated those calls again Tuesday morning.

"Because we're missing the point, we've got a systemic issue that needs to be addressed,” said Selinger. “It's not simply a matter of 1,200 unconnected individual cases each of which have their own particular characteristics.

“There are some deeper underlying issues that have to be addressed here."

Selinger stressed that an inquiry would help reveal how to most effectively focus resources into investigating and preventing further disappearances and murders.

"They want the inquiry to be focused on not only understanding the underlying causes, but where resources need to be focused to make a difference to protect aboriginal women from being victims from these kinds of crimes," he said.

Time of essence, former AFN chief says

Ovide Mercredi, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the time for an inquiry is now. 

“People want some action from the governments. All the governments have been saying is no to a public inquiry, but they have not followed up with any resources that deal with the problem,” he said. “The excuse that we shouldn't spend money on a public inquiry is a very poor excuse for inaction. We should spend that money in order to find out what really needs to be done."

Mercredi said an inquiry would shine a light on why the problem exists and probe the root cause.

"The answer we're getting right now from the Prime Minister is a wrongheaded response. He says it's a criminal matter. It's up to the police to resolve it. But if that's the case, the police have not resolved it in two decades,” he said. “So there's obviously a societal problem that the police can't handle."

Mercredi said an inquiry would not only look at the underlying problem and cause but also help the government figure out what it needs to do in conjunction with aboriginal leaders and communities to resolve the problem.

"If the federal government came with a plan to truly address this issue with the adequate resources that would satisfy the aboriginal community and in particular the aboriginal women, I would stop calling for a public inquiry, but there is no evidence of that," he said.

Selinger angered by Harper's stance

Selinger said it made him angry to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismiss the calls for an inquiry last week.

The prime minister said Fontaine’s death and similar cases are best understood as criminal matters, not sociological phenomena.

“They're not all one phenomenon," said Harper. "We should not view this as a sociological phenomenon. We should view it as crime."

Michele Audette with the Native Women's Association of Canada disagreed.

She said cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls aren't just criminal matters.

"It will bring more than just the public security or the justice aspect, but also the sociological phenomenon that we strongly believe that it is the case here in Canada," said Audette.

All voices need to be heard, she said, including those from provincial and territorial governments, and aboriginal communities and agencies.

Audette said there needs to be a national plan of action.