A former Conservative MP says missing and murdered women who disappeared along British Columbia's notorious Highway 16 were "putting themselves at risk."
Eighteen women and girls vanished between 1969 and 2006 from the stretch of road between Prince Rupert and Prince George in the northern half of the province.
John Cummins, who represented the Delta—Richmond East riding for 18 years, suggested on Tuesday that the women's choices were risky.
"They've been picked up by God knows whom, and their remains are found days later, and there simply aren't any clues," Cummins said on CBC Radio's "The Early Edition". "Quite often people are engaging in behaviour, hitchhiking on these lonely roads by themselves at night, that behaviour is dangerous. They're putting themselves at risk."
Cummins, 73, was part of a political panel discussing why aboriginal issues have not been more prominent in the current federal election campaign.
When CBC host Rick Cluff asked Cummins if he was saying it was the women's fault, the politician replied, "What I'm saying is that if you engage in that risky behaviour — hitchhiking on a lonely road in the middle of the night — you're putting yourself at risk. And that's a reality."
Listen to the interview:
On the campaign trail, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has been steadfast in his refusal to host an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women, saying Tuesday that it's "way past the time" to study the issue.
He's also said that the disappearances and killings have "been studied to death."
When asked to comment on Harper's stance, Cummins suggested that the federal Conservative leader makes his decisions based on the hard work the RCMP has already done investigating the decades-old cases.
"[The officers] have done the very best they can under difficult circumstances," he said.
In March 2011, Cummins moved to provincial politics by seeking the leadership of the B.C. Conservative Party. A few months later, he was blasted for his remarks on gay marriage.
Speaking to Victoria's CFAX Radio, Cummins said he was "pro-traditional marriage." He added that one's sexual orientation is a conscious choice and doesn't need human rights protection, reported CTV News.
He later apologized for the comments in a statement, saying that his words were "misinterpreted" and that his use of the word "choice" was "unfortunate."
Weeks later, Cummins was acclaimed provincial Conservative leader — but his tenure was dismal. Senior officials fled the party, and three candidates were fired in one week for inappropriate statements.
Martyn Brown, a campaign director for former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, told The Tyee that Cummins sabotaged the party's campaign with his "Angry Old Man" persona.
Cummins stepped down in 2013 after losing in his own riding in the provincial election.
With files from The Canadian Press