Premiers vow action on missing, murdered women
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, February 26, 2016 10:48AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 26, 2016 8:57PM EST
Canada’s indigenous affairs minister says she is excited about commitments made by provincial and territorial premiers to fully participate in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“Today is actually the day we get to deliver, because we know that it will be a national inquiry,” Minister Carolyn Bennett told reporters in Winnipeg, after a roundtable meeting that included families of murder victims.
Bennett said the violence is “a tragedy that’s still happening -- happening every week.”
Bennett also referred to a candle light vigil held on Wednesday in Winnipeg for Marilyn Rose Munroe, 41.
Munroe was the third indigenous woman homicide victim in Winnipeg so far in 2016. Only two non-indigenous people have died.
“This has got to stop,” Bennett said.
Bennett added that the premiers have not only agreed to work with the national inquiry launched by the Liberal government, but also to take immediate actions.
“People …were worried that we could end up with jurisdictional squabbles that meant really important issues like policing and child welfare would not be able to be properly dealt with,” said the minister.
Among those who had expressed concern was Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who also suggested this week that provincial governments should include funding for Aboriginal education, affordable housing, detox and wellness centres in annual budgets.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger listed off some of the things he said premiers had committed to doing while the inquiry is underway, including “training for all of our officials … to increase competency and understanding about racism, about anti-sexism, about the history of colonization.”
Selinger also said the premiers would continue to work to improve the basic quality of life for indigenous people and launch violence prevention and awareness programs.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she wouldn’t wait before taking action, pointing to $100 million over three years that the province has recently earmarked to fight violence.
The Ontario strategy, called Walking Together, includes $80 million for a well-being program to support indigenous families in crisis and to help communities deal with the effects of inter-generational trauma. It also includes millions for investigations and police training.
Minister Bennett said that the pre-inquiry process has already heard from 2,000 witnesses and received more than 4,000 written submissions, which will be accepted online until Monday.
The RCMP has estimated at least 1,200 indigenous women have disappeared or been murdered since 1980. Although indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
With files from The Canadian Press