APTN National News
OTTAWA–Laureen Harper, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife, was in the audience for an Economic Club of Canada speech this past November when the head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission called on the federal government to launch a national inquiry into the “national tragedy” of murdered and missing Indigenous women.
Kellie Leitch, the minister of the status of women, was also in the audience that day.
“The murder or disappearance of some 600 Aboriginal women and girls over the past 30 years is a national tragedy,” Langtry said during the speech. “We must get to the root causes of these disturbing facts.”
It’s unknown what impact the speech had on Laureen Harper. It did little, however, to move Leitch, who last Thursday rejected opposition calls for a national inquiry, saying the Harper government has done and continues to do enough.
“The fact remains that there has been little concrete actions so far. The problem requires real, sustainable solutions that will demand an unprecedented degree of effort and commitment with federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations governments working together,” said the report.
The prime minister is personally against calling an inquiry.
A large part of the report is based on four round table discussions held last year with Indigenous women in Winnipeg, Halifax, Ottawa and Vancouver. A fifth round table is scheduled for Montreal this year.
Some women told the roundtable table that there are First Nations leaders who are also responsible for committing violence against Indigenous women.
“Truth be told, some leaders are offenders of violence against women,” one woman is quoted as saying. “It is so entrenched, many women live in fear. That is our sad reality and it is tough.”
The women also told the CHRC roundtable that many women fear retaliation from within their own communities if they file human rights complaints.
“Some Aboriginal women said they fear that by making a complaint they could be denied access to important health and social services,” said the report. “Others spoke of fears that their allegations would be met with intimidation or acts of violence. Some said they face the difficult decision of choosing between keeping quite or leaving their community.”
The report also found that Indigenous women also face systemic racism in cities and found that Indigenous women feel they are victims of a double-standard.
“The participants painted a bleak picture of the state of human rights, not just in many First Nations communities, but also in cities, where increasing numbers of Aboriginal women now live,” said the report. “Collectively, they expressed distrust of police and judicial processes intended to protect all Canadians equally.”
One Indigenous woman told the roundtable: “Everything about me is violated, my identity, my culture, roots. Racism is embedded in the system.”
Another Indigenous woman told the roundtable: “We don’t cry anymore…Nothing fazes us. We grow accustomed to racial discrimination.”
The Indian Act was amended in 2008 to allow the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act on First Nation reserves.