By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
Nearly 1,200 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada over the past 30 years, says the head of the RCMP.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told reporters Thursday that the federal police force had compiled a total of 1,186 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Of that number, 1,026 have been murdered and 160 are missing, said Paulson, who spoke to reporters after appearing before a Parliamentary committee.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told the committee that the RCMP would release all its data on missing and murdered Indigenous women within a month according to reports from a federal committee in Ottawa Thursday.
The issue dominated Question Period earlier in the day as opposition parties jumped all over the Harper government renewing demands for a national inquiry after an APTN National News story revealed the RCMP has uncovered more than 1,000 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, hundreds more than previously thought.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair was the first to demand an inquiry and tried to put the figure in perspective.
“The Ottawa area has about a million inhabitants, imagine if a thousand women had been murdered or missing in Ottawa, do you think we’d have to beg for an inquiry?” said Mulcair.
The Harper government refused to answer Mulcair directly.
“If the leader of the opposition really wants to make a difference I would invite him to support the Conservative budget for 2014 because it sets aside $25 million for a strategy to look into the matter of missing and murdered Aboriginal women,” said Blaney.
APTN reported Wednesday that the RCMP had uncovered more than 1,000 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women with the help other police forces across the country, according to a person with knowledge of the project.
APTN was also told a report on the project was supposed to be released March 31 but has been delayed by the department of public safety.
The RCMP didn’t deny the figure Thursday morning.
RCMP Aboriginal policing Supt. Tyler Bates was reached on his cellphone Wednesday and he told APTN they were still working on the report.
Bates didn’t confirm or deny the government had interfered with the project and when questioned on the proposed release date, twice, he refused to comment.
The opposition didn’t stop with Mulcair Thursday in Question Period.
Next up was NDP Aboriginal critic Jean Crowder.
“Over 1,000 women. One thousand Aboriginal women missing and murdered, yet the minister (Blaney) doesn’t seem to appreciate the staggering number,” said Crowder. “As a member of Parliament, as a Canadian, as a grandmother, as a friend, as an aunt I ask once again will the government shed light on this tragedy by publicly releasing the RCMP report and by calling a national inquiry?”
Blaney rose and, once again, didn’t answer the question, including whether they have a copy of the RCMP report on the project.
He said the government has passed measures to get tough on crime and repeated the $25 million figure asking Crowder to support the budget.
Then NDP MP Niki Ashton called on the government for an inquiry.
“Families want closure, they want justice, they want to be heard and they want action from this government. When will this federal government call an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women?” said Ashton.
Blaney responded one missing person in Canada is too many and the government passed legislation to give Aboriginal women more rights on-reserve.
Later on in Question Period Liberal Aboriginal critic Carolyn Bennett repeated a call for an inquiry.
Blaney’s response didn’t alter from party lines.