APTN National News
OTTAWA-The Conservatives kept the country’s leading Aboriginal women’s group in the dark until the last minute on plans to announce a so-called national strategy on murdered and missing Aboriginal women, the group’s president said.
Native Women’s Association of Canada president Jeannette Corbiere Lavell said she was only informed by the government the day before Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose stood in the Vancouver police department to say her government was following through on their $10 million commitment.
Corbiere Lavell said the Conservative government did not consult with NWAC staff or those involved with the organization’s groundbreaking Sisters in Spirit project in the lead-up to the announcement.
“NWAC was originally led to believe that it would be invited to join in a discussion with the Department of Justice…about the allocation of the $10 million,” said Corbiere Lavell, reading from a statement at her organization’s downtown Ottawa office. “This did not occur.”
Corbiere Lavell said the Conservative’s Oct. 29 announcement was directed at missing and murdered Aboriginal women in name only.
She said it did not include any measures to address serious crimes like murder, but instead spoke to violence “as a whole.”
The announcement also reinvented work that had already been done by Sisters in Spirit, didn’t address the RCMP’s limited jurisdiction over urban centres were most Aboriginal women are murdered and excluded provinces east of Manitoba from access to funding, she said
The organization, however, forced itself to support the announcement despite its “disappointment” with the content “because Aboriginal women have been waiting for this commitment.”
Corbiere Lavell said the government needs to come through with money specifically targeting the issue in the next federal budget.
“The disproportionate number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women requires a disproportionate response,” said Corbiere Lavell. “NWAC is requesting more money to be devoted to this issue…it needs to be solely dedicated to missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.”
Corbiere Lavell also acknowledged that Status of Women officials had asked the organization not to use any government money for projects under the name Sisters in Spirit or for work on their vaunted missing and murdered Aboriginal women database.
Corbiere Lavell said NWAC would comply in order to access funding to continue related work on the issue.
She said the organization would continue to use the name Sisters in Spirit and find ways to keep their database going.
The Conservative announcement included $4 million for the RCMP for a missing persons and unidentified remains branch and promised Criminal Code amendments to increase police powers in the areas of wiretapping and accessing warrants.
The Conservatives have invoked NWAC in defence of criticsm levelled against the announcement.