Report on violence against indigenous women falls short, says MP
Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton said a report from MPs on violence against indigenous women tabled Friday is a slap in the face to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women.
The report contains 16 recommendations, but stops short of calling on the federal government to launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered women.
Ashton, the NDP's Opposition's Status of Women critic, said families who have lost their loved ones and people who work in indigenous communities have long called for federal action, and the report is a disservice to them.
"This report is deficient in every way," she said. "This report does not call for national action. It does not call for a co-ordinated national action plan to end violence against indigenous women."
Ashton said it's an issue that hits close to home.
"This isn't just a Manitoba issue, this is a Canadian issue," she said. "It touches all of us and that's why we need the federal government to act."
She called on Manitobans, especially those who helped elect the Conservative government, to tell their MPs how they feel.
"I would hope that here in Manitoba, in particular, where this issue has affected us so closely, Manitobans will demand better of Manitoba Conservative members of Parliament who have the power to say, 'You know what? We can do better.'"
Families react with disbelief
The committee's report left families of women who have gone missing or been found murdered shaking their heads.
"It's really a slap in the face to us," said Bernadette Smith, whose sister, Claudette Osborne, went missing in July 2008.
Smith said she had hoped for a concrete plan to prevent more violence.
Instead, she said it's as if Ottawa is placed the blame on First Nations communities themselves.
"That's not where the violence is happening," she said. "It's happening all across Canada and they need to stop pigeon-holing our people."
Feds say inquiry not needed
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay said an inquiry is not necessary, since the government has already taken action.
"What we're doing in here regularly [is] passing laws that bring in tougher sanctions, that hold people accountable, that put more tools in the hands of police," he said Friday.
Even Bernadette Smith says she is skeptical about what an inquiry could do. She said she'd rather see money be put into community programs.
"We know what the problems are," she said. "Let's start looking at that and creating tangible action plans. Putting money into resources that are needed to stop the violence."
But others in the aboriginal community continue to call for an inquiry.
Claudette Dumont-Smith speaks for the Native Women's Association of Canada.
"If things don't change, aboriginal women will continue to go missing and be murdered and be regarded as second class citizens," she said.
Ashton introduced a motion in Parliament last May calling for a national action plan which includes a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The motion has not yet come up for debate.