For 25 years, Aboriginal women on reserves have been without the legal protections that are available to all other Canadians. When a relationship breaks down a husband can ban his spouse from the home, sell the house, and even keep all the money, without consent of the woman. This egregious gap in legal protection for Aboriginal women places many women and their children at risk, including violence, exploitation and economic hardship. Let's face it, without legal protections, Aboriginal women are treated like second class citizens every day across our nation. This is unacceptable!
Having worked on the issue of sex trafficking and exploitation of Aboriginal women and children for many years, I am very concerned with the pattern of violence against aboriginal women and the impact it has on the families and the communities who suffer from it. It is all too easy for a woman who has been victimized through spousal abuse with nowhere to turn to be lured or coerced into sex trafficking.
Our Conservative Government believes in sending a clear message -- that family violence and violence against women and children, wherever it occurs, cannot be tolerated.
The Government of Canada has taken steps to ensure Aboriginal women are protected by the same national standards of equality by introducing Bill S-2, Matrimonial Property Rights Legislation. Bill S-2 would ensure that all women and individuals living on first nations reserves would have access to emergency protection for their safety and security and equal matrimonial real property. In response, First Nations communities, international organizations, and the Province of Manitoba have demanded immediate adoption of Bill S-2.
One of the most critical amendments of Bill S-2 will allow judges to enforce emergency protection orders for the safety of the woman and child. Court order protection from domestic violence has long been available to Canadian women living off reserve. It has long been recognized, by law enforcement and those working to address violence against women and girls, as critical to the safety of women. Simply put, access to emergency protection orders saves lives. Extending these same rights to aboriginal women living on reserve will protect more of them.
This issue is critical to future generations of aboriginal children. We are working hard to advance equality for women and to remove the barriers to women's participation in society and eliminate violence against women. This includes aboriginal women.
As Betty Ann Lavallée, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, has said:
"[Bill S-2] is addressing the real human issue of an aboriginal person, something taken for granted by all other Canadians...A spouse within an aboriginal relationship should not be denied, or put out on the street alone and without any recourse, because of a family [or marital] breakdown."
Despite opposition to this important legislation, our Conservative Government will continue to stand up for the rights of victims, Aboriginal women and youth. We will ensure all women have equal rights and protections in Canada.