Premiers urge Ottawa to launch inquiry into missing aboriginal women
Published Tuesday, August 26, 2014 3:33PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 27, 2014 1:51PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have rejected calls for a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, but several premiers are hoping the federal government will change its mind.
Ahead of a meeting Wednesday between provincial and aboriginal leaders, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said his government will continue to urge Ottawa to launch a national inquiry.
McNeil told reporters Tuesday that his position has the support of all three political parties in the province.
“We hope that the national government will see fit to move forward on that,” he said.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also said she still supports calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“It is unacceptable that aboriginal women are nearly three times more likely than other Canadian women to report being victims of violence,” a spokesperson for Wynne said Tuesday.
Wynne is looking forward to discussing the issue at a meeting of premiers and aboriginal leaders in Prince Edward Island on Wednesday, the spokesperson said.
The premiers of Manitoba and Saskatchewan also say they support a national inquiry and have called on Ottawa to reconsider.
Inquiry reignited by recent death
Premiers and native leaders endorsed the idea of an inquiry when they met last year, but the recent death of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old aboriginal girl in Manitoba, has renewed debate on the issue.
"In light of recent events ... it's clear that this issue cannot be overshadowed by other pressing issues,” said Ghislain Picard, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Harper drew criticism last week for saying that cases like Fontaine’s should not be seen as a “sociological phenomenon,” but rather a serious crime.
Picard said the federal government is “standing alone” as premiers continue to support the inquiry.
Ottawa has said that it’s doing its part to address the problem of violence against aboriginal women by setting up a national DNA index for missing persons and introducing tougher sentences for violent and sex crimes.
Police chiefs not endorsing inquiry
The newly elected president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says a national inquiry would only delay action on cases involving missing and murdered aboriginal women.
"Yes, a national inquiry may shed some light on this, but as Canadian chiefs, we don't want to delay action," Clive Weighill, who is also the Saskatoon police chief, said at the association's annual meeting in Victoria.
"We know what the problems are. The aboriginal population in Canada knows and I think most Canadians know what the issues are. Let's get on with it."
The police chiefs are instead calling on all levels of government to take immediate action to address the underlying issues related to violence against aboriginal women.
With files from The Canadian Press