08/22/2014 12:37 EDT

Wynne: Harper's Missing, Murdered Aboriginal Women Comments 'Outrageous'


TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is wrong in saying that police investigations, not a national inquiry, are the best way to deal with crimes involving missing and murdered aboriginal women, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday.

"For Stephen Harper to say that there's not a systemic aspect to this, I think is just — I think it's outrageous quite frankly," she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

All the provinces and territories endorsed calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women when they gathered last year for the Council of the Federation conference. They'll meet up again next week in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

The federal Conservatives have firmly rejected the proposal, saying they prefer to address the issue in other ways, such as through aboriginal justice programs and a national DNA missing person's index.

But the death of a 15-year-old aboriginal girl found wrapped in a bag and dumped in the Red River has prompted renewed calls for an inquiry. Tina Fontaine, whose body was discovered Sunday, had been in Winnipeg less than a month when she ran away from foster care. Police are treating it as a homocide.

Harper said most such cases are addressed and solved by the police, adding it's important to keep in mind that these are crimes.

"We should not view this as sociological phenomenon," he said Thursday in Whitehorse.

"We should view it as crime. It is crime against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such."

In May, the RCMP issued a detailed statistical breakdown of 1,181 cases since 1980. It said aboriginal women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, but account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.

"As the RCMP has said itself in its own study, the vast majority of these cases are addressed and are solved through police investigations, and we'll leave it in their hands," Harper said.

He's wrong and the premiers will continue to press the federal government for a public inquiry, Wynne said.

There are many systemic issue that aboriginal people deal with, she said. In Ontario, high school graduation rates among aboriginal youth is as low as 40 per cent compared to 83 per cent among mainstream students.

Some communities in northern Ontario haven't had drinking water in years, an issue that will be raised at next week's conference, she said.

The province has done what is can to improve conditions, but constitutionally, they're the responsiblity of the federal government, Wynne added. Ottawa doesn't want an inquiry because it would call into question all those societal issues.

"For whatever reason, Stephen Harper is choosing not to tackle those issues in a serious way," she said.


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