POLITICS

Mulcair: It's Time For A PM Who Cares About Missing, Murdered Aboriginal Women

08/31/2015 01:10 EDT | Updated 08/31/2015 04:59 EDT

Thomas Mulcair has again suggested Stephen Harper doesn't "care" about the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, even as the Conservative leader insists he's taken concrete action.

Mulcair announced in Saskatoon Monday that an NDP government would restore millions in funding for women's shelters.

But the NDP leader also reiterated a pledge to call a national inquiry into the cases of 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women within 100 days of forming government, noting that aboriginal women are four times more likely to face violence.

"Answers to this crisis have to be found," he said.

And, as he did weeks ago in Winnipeg, Mulcair directly addressed the murder of Winnipeg teen Tina Fontaine, whose body was recovered from the Red River last August.

"This month is the first anniversary of the horrific murder of Tina Fontaine. Her tragic death shocked this country. And I say this to every mother, to every daughter, to every sister that it's time you had a prime minister who cares," he said.

"As prime minister I will make it a priority to end violence against women."

While responding to questions from reporters Monday, Mulcair said an underlying "attitude of racism" was the real reason a national inquiry hasn't been called already.

That was the same message he delivered at a rally in Winnipeg that was disrupted by Energy East hecklers.

"Do you think that if 1,200 women had been murdered or had gone missing in Ottawa we'd need the United Nations to tell us to have an inquiry? It would have happened a long time ago," he told the crowd. "This is about racism. That's what this is about."

Harper insists he's taken action

The Conservative leader was also asked about missing and murdered aboriginal women Monday after CBC News reported a promised RCMP database on missing persons, intended to help police solve such crimes, is five years overdue.

A reporter asked Harper what that delay might tell Canadians about where his party prioritizes the issue.

Harper replied that Tories have taken a "range of measures" on the problem, including additional investigative tools for police, more funds for protection services, and criminal justice reforms to ensure "serious penalties" for the perpetrators of violence.

The Conservative leader, who has long maintained that an inquiry would just amount to "another study" instead of action, was careful to point out that Tories are "making use of the existing 40 studies" to determine next steps.

Harper also threw a dig at his main rivals.

"What I notice about the other guys, what they always leave out, is actually taking any action against the perpetrators of violence," he said. "And there is no way you can ignore the criminal element matter of this and expect to protect women and children."

'This is a national issue'

However, at least one Tory is in favour of a national inquiry — incumbent Yukon candidate Ryan Leef, who broke ranks with the rest of his caucus in 2013.

"This is not an aboriginal issue," he told a Whitehorse crowd at a vigil for missing and murdered aboriginal women "This is not a territorial issue. This is a national issue."

Leef was also the only Conservative to vote for a NDP private member's bill last May calling for an inquiry.

Leef told CBC News his constituents have been "loud and clear" on the matter.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who was not on the campaign trail Monday, has also vowed to call an inquiry if he becomes prime minister.

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