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Harper Lacks Compassion and Leadership When it Comes to the Safety of Indigenous Women

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Prime Minister Harper's dismissal of the growing over-representation of Indigenous women and girls as victims of violence, homicide and persons who go missing as isolated crimes to be investigated by police illustrates just how out of touch he is. Moreover, the callous tone of his remarks yesterday, and failure to show any empathy for the families and loved ones of those who have been lost, shows a lack of compassion and leadership.

His characterization of this ongoing national tragedy completely disregards the scope of the crisis, which was confirmed only months ago by an RCMP report. That report doubled the 2010 estimate of the Native Women's Association of Canada of 600 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in recent decades to almost 1,200 since 1984. Even more disturbing than the shocking number of Indigenous women and girls involved was the finding that their proportion of the homicide rate is growing drastically, from 8 per cent in 1984 to 23 per cent in 2012. That means that today almost one in four female homicide victims in Canada is Indigenous, despite the fact they represent roughly only 4 per cent of the female population.

In the face of these appalling statistics, the Prime Minister's continuing refusal to call a national public inquiry completely undermines his credibility when he claims to be tough on crime or to support victims.

Just yesterday he again stubbornly refused to call a national public inquiry claiming, "we should not view this as sociological phenomenon." This flippant dismissal of the profound impact of root causes on this chronic problem disregards even the watered down conclusions and recommendations of the Conservative dominated Parliamentary committee that issued a white-washed report on this issue last spring.

While the Conservative majority on the committee refused to listen to the many experts and witnesses who testified to the need for a national public inquiry, even they disagreed with the Prime Minister's discounting of the sociological root causes of this chronic violence. In fact the Parliamentary committee devoted a third of the study and an entire chapter of the resulting report to the root causes of this worsening crisis. Unfortunately the final recommendations ignored the evidence and instead simply cited inadequate existing government initiatives, most not even specific to violence against Indigenous women and girls.

It is clear that only a national inquiry would have the scope and resources necessary to identify the root causes of the violence and outline concrete measures to deal with this ongoing tragedy. It is the only way to provide justice for the victims, healing for their families and to put an end to the violence. Harper's steadfast refusal to call a national inquiry flies in the face of the repeated urging of the victims' families, every provincial and territorial premier, Indigenous leadership, the international community and civil society. As I have said before, he is on the wrong side of this issue and of history. This is not a women's issue, not an Indigenous issue, it is a Canadian issue that touches the hearts of all Canadians.

The Prime Minister's continued refusal to act is reprehensible. The Prime Minister is wrong. In order stop this ongoing tragedy and ensure the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada, he must call a national inquiry now.


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