British Columbia

Conservative MP says 'lack of a job' cause of missing and murdered indigenous women

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer made comments at an all-candidates meeting in Fort St. John that left his opponent "flabbergasted" and drew a rebuke from one activist.

Bob Zimmer says comments taken out of context, MP says he 'absolutely cares' about missing and murdered women

Conservative MP made comments at an all-candidates' meeting in Fort St. John that drew strong reaction. (BobZimmer.Conservative.ca)

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer is taking heat for suggesting that joblessness is largely the cause of Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women.

The incumbent MP for the Northern B.C. Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding made the comments at an all-candidates meeting in Fort St. John this week when the moderator asked whether an inquiry was needed into missing and murdered indigenous women.

"If I thought an inquiry would save one life, one life, I absolutely would do it," Zimmer responded.  "There's already been 42 studies that have been done." 

"The most recent one is the RCMP study into missing and murdered aboriginal women. It talks about the issues. It talks about what's the major cause of those missing and murdered aboriginal women. The study's been done. There's many others that have been done. I think the key is how we respond to it."

"One of the major drivers of missing and murdered aboriginal women is the lack of economic activity, or simply put, the lack of a job. … Ultimately, when people have a job, they're not in despair. They can stay on reserve, and that's where we want them to be."

Those comments drew confused chatter from the audience, and NDP candidate Kathi Dickie said she was "flabbergasted" by the remarks.

"Twelve-hundred women murdered because they didn't have a job? And they would have stayed on the reserve?" she asked to applause.

"Women are still going missing today. They're still being murdered. The 42 studies, obviously, they have not worked. We need an inquiry to get to the root causes of those things."

Zimmer clarifies

When questioned by CBC News about his comments, Zimmer said that he was being taken out of context, and that he "absolutely cares" about missing and murdered indigenous women.

"It's a tragedy we need to fix," he said. "As a father, I can't imagine going through a tragedy like that, and from the bottom of my heart, I want to see it stopped."

Zimmer said that a lack of jobs is "by far not the only factor" contributing to missing and murdered indigenous women, and he wants women to not have to endanger themselves by hitchhiking.

To hear the full exchange between Zimmer, Dickie and the debate's moderator, click on the SoundCloud file below (courtesy of Alaska Highway News).

Local advocate 'disheartened' by comments

Connie Greyeyes is an organizer with Sisters in Spirit Fort St. John, which advocates for missing and murdered indigenous women. Several of her own friends and family members are among those women.

She said that she was hurt by Zimmer's comments, and said she's heard from other families of missing and murdered indigenous women who say the same thing.

"These families have been through enough tragedy and trauma," she said. "To be traumatized again and again by offhanded comments in the media like these from candidates, it's just so disheartening."

Greyeyes says she has been working with Elections Canada to bump up voting numbers on reserves. She says the voters she's been speaking to are frustrated that the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women has not been more prominent during the campaign, and says the issue is motivating many first-time voters on reserves.

Online reaction

Zimmer's comments drew reaction from many users on Twitter, most of whom disagreed with his comments.

To hear the full interview with Connie Greyeyes, click on the audio labelled: Conservative MP's comments on missing and murdered indigenous women criticized.

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