Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "on the wrong side of history" in his refusal to launch a public inquiry to study the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Saturday.
Trudeau was in Moncton, N.B., where he said the recent case of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old aboriginal girl found dead in Winnipeg, highlights the need to begin an inquiry.
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"My heart goes out to the families of not just Tina Fontaine but of all the missing and murdered over the years," Trudeau said.
"The prime minister has shown himself not to be simply ... just out of touch with Canadians on this issue, but also on the wrong side of history."
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Harper said earlier this week that Fontaine's death was a crime and should not be viewed as a "sociological phenomenon."
"We should view it as crime. It is crime against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such," Harper said.
The federal Conservatives have said they prefer to address the issue in other ways such as through aboriginal justice programs and a national DNA missing person's index.
In May, the RCMP released a breakdown of 1,181 cases of aboriginal women who disappeared or were homicide victims. It said while aboriginal women make up 4.3 per cent of Canada's population, they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
"There's no question that there's a criminal issue here, a horrible crime was committed," said Trudeau, who was campaigning with the provincial Liberals for the New Brunswick election.
"But it's part of a pattern that has gone on for years and Canada absolutely needs to get to the bottom of (it) with a national inquiry."
On Friday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Harper is wrong in saying that police investigations, not a national inquiry, are the best way to deal with those crimes.
"For Stephen Harper to say that there's not a systemic aspect to this, I think is just — I think it's outrageous quite frankly," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
Wynne's not the only premier to take issue with Harper's comments. Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said Harper is missing the point when it comes to murdered and missing aboriginal women.
“As Canadians, I believe we want to look after each other, and I think we want to protect the most vulnerable, especially missing and murdered aboriginal women from being victimized,” said Selinger. “It’s an issue that affects communities all across Canada.”
All the provinces and territories endorsed calls for a public inquiry when they gathered last year in Ontario for the annual Council of the Federation premiers' conference. They'll meet up again next week in Charlottetown, P.E.I., where they'll talk with aboriginal leaders.
Teen remembered at Manitoba funeral
The death of Fontaine, whose body was found Sunday wrapped in a bag and dumped in the Red River, has prompted renewed calls for an inquiry. She had been in Winnipeg less than a month when she ran away from foster care. Police are treating it as a homicide.
Fontaine's family and friends gathered near a Manitoba First Nation on Saturday afternoon for a service to remember her life.
The service began at the St. Alexander Roman Catholic Church at around 2 p.m. CT and ended two hours later. It was followed by a traditional feast.
Federal Conservatives have firmly rejected an inquiry, saying they prefer to address the issue in other ways, such as through aboriginal justice programs and a national DNA missing person's index.