APTN National News
OTTAWA–The Conservative MPs on the House of Commons special committee on violence against Indigenous women refused to add calls for a public inquiry as part of the main recommendations in the committee’s report tabled Friday in Parliament.
The committee’s main recommendations, which were essentially those of Conservative MPs on the committee, generally reflected the Harper government’s current policy on the issue.
There are an estimated 800 murdered and missing Indigenous women across the country.
The report included the dissenting opinions of the NDP and Liberals MPs on the committee who both recommended the government to call a public inquiry and issued a separate set of recommendations. The NDP and Liberals also recommended the government develop a national action plan to combat violence against Indigenous women.
“It is appalling that after hearing witness after witness testify that much more needs to be done on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the Conservatives could produce a sanitized report saying that everything is fine,” said NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder.
“That this report only contains recommendations approved by the government, and does not reflect the testimony of witnesses, is in flagrant disregard of Parliamentary principles,” said Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett.
Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) president Michelle Audette said the report marked a “sad day for the families.”
Audette said Indigenous women needed concrete action from Ottawa.
“Look how much they spend for nothing when we are dying on the streets,” said Audette.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said he would be meeting with NWAC, the Metis National Council and the inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to discuss what to do to up pressure on the issue.
“This report is disappointing to Indigenous women and girls and all Canadians who stand with us,” said Atleo.
According to the evidence heard by the committee, 70 per cent of disappearances and 60 per cent of murders of Indigenous women happen in urban centres. The committee heard that over 87 per cent of these women were mothers of at least one child, according to data provided by NWAC.
NWAC also told the committee that of the over 582 cases they’ve tallied, 39 per cent occurred after 2000 and 17 per cent in the 1990s. NWAC also found that half of the cases remain unsolved. The Canadian average for homicide investigation is a 75 per cent solve rate.
Indigenous women are also far more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women. Between 2004 and 2011, Indigenous women accounted for 8 per cent of murders while being only 4 per cent of the total population of women.
Indigenous women are also more likely to be attacked by a stranger than non-Indigenous women, the committee heard.
Indigenous women are also more likely to face violence in domestic situations. According to the 2009 General Social Survey, indigenous women face twice the rate of domestic violence than the general population.
While the Conservative MP’s recommendations in the report called on Ottawa to work with provinces, territories and municipalities to create “public awareness and prevention” campaigns in its first recommendation, the four that followed simply mirrored already announced initiatives by the federal government.
The committee called on the government to “strengthen the criminal justice system” so “violent and repeat offenders serve appropriate sentences.” It recommended the Harper government “maintain its commitment to develop the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights” and implement a national DNA missing persons index, which was announced in the most recent budget.
The committee also recommended Ottawa support on-reserve K-12 education, which was recently the subject of joint federal government-Assembly of First Nations announcement.
The committee stopped short of calling for funding for women’s shelters and front-line services on reserve, but instead called on Ottawa to “engage First nation communities to examine how to improve” them.
APTN National News reported Thursday that an Iqaluit woman was murdered by her partner shortly before she was turned away by a shelter because it had no more room.
The committee recommended Ottawa address poverty as a root cause of violence against Indigenous women by providing economic development and job skills training. It also called on the federal government to ensure territorial and First Nation childcare agencies have “effective and accountable service delivery.”
Ottawa is currently facing a human rights complaint alleging it underfunds on reserve child and family services compared to the provinces.
The committee recommended the federal government work with municipal, provincial and territorial governments to collect police data on violence against Indigenous women that “includes an ethnicity variable.”
The RCMP is already collective missing and murdered case data from police forces across the country but it is not specific to First Nations, Metis and Inuit women.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada has already dismissed the work of the committee.
Amnesty International said in a statement that the report failed Indigenous women.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is personally against calling an inquiry and has relayed his views to AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.