Missing and murdered aboriginal women inquiry a must, report says
Group looked at 40 reports the government cites for not calling an inquiry and 18 others
Contrary to government assertions, violence against indigenous women and girls is a sociological phenomenon and, while it has been studied, many recommendations haven't been implemented, claims a new report on the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women.
The report, released today by the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women, comes a day before the federal government and First Nations leaders are slated to meet to discuss the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women.
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The coalition said the meta-study – a study of 58 studies – proves there is a need for a national inquiry into the disproportionately high rate of murder and disappearance of First Nations women.
"Bluntly, the fact that we have to actually commission this type of research when there's 58 studies and reports that have come out with key findings. That, in itself, is frustrating," said Christa Big Canoe, a member of the coalition.
58 studies, 20 years
The study was commissioned by the coalition to look into the Conservative government's oft-repeated claim that no national inquiry is needed because the issue has already been studied so often. The government regularly cites 40 studies done by various organizations and levels of government over the last 20 years to back up its claim that an inquiry is not needed. The Conservatives also say the issue is a criminal problem, not a sociological phenomenon.
The studies cited were reviewed along with 18 others going back to 1994. In the review, 16 themes were found in the recommendations made by the 58 reports.
At the top of the list were four reports between 2012 and 2015 that recommended "the establishment of a national commission of inquiry into this issue [of murdered and missing aboriginal women]."
The study also found 28 reports between 1996 an 2015 called for indigenous-specific programs and support for victims and their families. It went on to note that many such programs have been cut back or eliminated in recent years.
Twenty-one reports between 2001 and 2015 suggested measures to improve the relationship between police and indigenous communities. While the coalition's study found evidence of those types of initiatives, it was hard to gauge how effective they were.
That theme highlighted one of coalition's main reasons to have a national inquiry.
An inquiry could "consolidate and update existing knowledge about the causes of violence against indigenous women, comprehensively evaluate the adequacy of existing initiatives and programs, and help Canadians and policymakers understand why there has been so much resistance to action to address this issue," said the report.
The government agreed to engage in a roundtable discussion, despite its resistance to call a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.
The roundtable is a closed meeting of families of the missing and murdered, indigenous organizations, premiers from 13 provinces and territories and federal ministers.
The Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the roundtable is meant to develop a co-ordinated action plan to combat violence against indigenous women and girls. Prevention and awareness, community safety, policing and justice will be on the agenda.
Last week, Bellegarde said he remains optimistic that the roundtable in Ottawa tomorrow is an "interim step" towards a much-needed national, public inquiry examining the root causes of violence against indigenous women.
With files from Martha Troian