Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt will attend a national roundtable later this month to discuss the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women, the government confirmed today, despite its refusal to heed growing calls for a national inquiry.
“We all have a role to play in protecting aboriginal women and girls. That’s why Minister Leitch and Minister Valcourt will represent the government of Canada," Andrew McGrath, a spokesman for Leitch, told CBC News in an email on Monday.
"We look forward to meeting with our provincial and territorial partners, as well as First Nations leaders, to discuss how we can all take action to address this important issue," the statement from Leitch's office said.
Confirmation of the federal ministers' attendance comes on the heels of a recent meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Perry Bellegarde, the newly elected national chief for the Assembly of First Nations.
Bellegarde told his executive committee, in a letter obtained by CBC News, that he met with Harper to discuss AFN priorities including "the need for an inquiry on murdered and missing indigenous women."
Valcourt also had a tête-à-tête with Bellegarde on Jan. 12 — two weeks before the prime minister met with the newly elected AFN national chief — the office for the aboriginal affairs minister confirmed in an email to CBC News.
CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge asked the prime minister in December about the prospect of calling a national inquiry. "It isn’t really high on our radar," Harper said.
While the federal government doesn't see the need for an inquiry, the office for Leitch said the government "has taken strong action," including a $25-million plan over five years to address violence against aboriginal women and girls.
The national roundtable is scheduled in Ottawa for Feb. 27.