Saskatoon

Legal protection for Indigenous women vital, says senator

A Saskatchewan senator is hoping for swift passage of her bill to impose harsher sentences on those who attack Indigenous women.

Sask. report says over half of 48 domestic homicide victims in past decade were Indigenous

Senator Lillian Dyck spoke out against Senator Lynn Beyak's latest comments about First Nations treaty status on Thursday. (Jason Warick)

A Saskatchewan senator is hoping for swift passage of her bill to impose harsher sentences on those who attack Indigenous women.

A report this week says there have been 48 domestic homicide victims in Saskatchewan over the past decade. More than half of those victims were Indigenous.

Senator Lillian Dyck and others say a holistic approach is needed to solve the problem.

But she is also proposing changes to the Criminal Code.

Dyck's Bill S-215 would amend the Criminal Code to make being an Aboriginal female victim an aggravating circumstance for the offences of murder, assault, and sexual assault.

That means that the court system would be required to take Aboriginal female identity into account during sentencing of those committing the offences against Indigenous women.

Dyck said it wouldn't be the first group afforded protection.

"To me, it's a no-brainer because we have protected people like taxi drivers, public transit operators. We protect service dogs and now we're protecting transgendered individuals," she said.

"For us not to protect Aboriginal women would just be unbelievable."

Her proposed bill is now in the House of Commons. Dyck said it could become law by the end of this year.

The senator said it's important to note that the bill would help protect victims of domestic violence, as well as the significant number of Indigenous women who are attacked by strangers.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas agreed Indigenous women need to be respected by the justice system. As for the domestic violence report, Thomas said  getting to the heart of the problem is the only way to solve it.

"You know, we have to look at the root causes of the violence in our communities. And right now, the easiest thing to point to is residential schools residue and also the mental health aspect. Those services are certainly needed," Thomas said.

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