Cathy McLeod: Tories Back MMIW Inquiry 'As Long As' There Are Results, Costs Under Control

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Conservatives have reaffirmed their support for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, with certain conditions.

Throughout its years in government, the party of former prime minister Stephen Harper consistently rejected calls for a national inquiry into the phenomenon.

In November, interim Tory leader Rona Ambrose announced a major shift when she said her party would support an inquiry led by the new Liberal government.

Tory indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod released a statement Wednesday confirming her party's position after attending the formal launch of the inquiry in Gatineau, Que. But McLeod's words also suggested her party will be pushing for tangible results.

As she has during past debates in the House of Commons, McLeod referred to her experience as a nurse in rural, indigenous communities in British Columbia, where she "too-frequently witnessed first-hand" violence against girls and women.

"There is a need to take action in a way that will make a real difference," she said in the release.

She added that the party "supports the public inquiry, as long as it remains focused on reducing these horrific tragedies and achieving measurable improvements in the day-to-day lives of Indigenous women and girls."

McLeod added — perhaps pointedly — that families of victims seek justice, "not just more resolutions and recommendations."

She urged the government to provide police with the resources they need to arrest perpetrators and expressed concern about the "Liberals' movement away from appropriate sentences for violent crime."

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has pledged to review aspects of the former government's "tough on crime agenda," including controversial mandatory minimum sentences.

Harper warned of "multi-million" costs

Harper long maintained that a formal inquest into missing and murdered indigenous women would only result in more study instead of action. He also expressed concerns that the costs associated with an inquiry could snowball.

"I would rather spend my time focusing on what actions we can take to improve these situations, prevent these situations, than have more multi-million dollar inquiries," Harper said when pressed on the matter in 2014.

McLeod noted Wednesday that the budget for the inquiry has increased to $53 million from the $40 million that was earmarked in the federal budget — a 33 per cent jump.

The Liberals, she said, will "need to ensure that costs and timelines are kept under control as the inquiry moves forward."

McLeod added that Conservatives will be watching closely to see if commissioners "materially improve on the more than 40 reports with recommendations that already exist."

All MPs care about issue: McLeod

Last December, McLeod rose before in the House of Commons to say there was not a single member of Parliament who isn't "horrified by the national tragedy" of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

She also acknowledged that the Liberals pledge to call an inquiry reflected a call from many across Canada.

"We offer our support to this initiative and for the government to fulfill its promise to these families," she said at the time. "My sincere hope is that the national inquiry will bring the answers, closure and peace that these families so desperately need."

The speech received a standing ovation in the House.

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