03/07/2014 06:00 EST | Updated 05/07/2014 05:59 EDT

On International Women's Day, Remember Loretta Saunders

Today, along with my family, community and caucus, I celebrate International Women's Day. Since childhood, I've participated in this day of global activity and celebration. On IWD we also march and shout and call out for the justice we have yet to be served and in defense of equality that ought to belong to all of us.

This year, while Indigenous peoples along with Canadians across the country grieve for Loretta Saunders, I am finding it difficult to join in the spirit of celebration.

Thursday the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women tabled a profoundly disappointing report. This report was accompanied by recommendations that were handwritten by Conservatives to ensure that they commit the government to do absolutely nothing that they are not already doing. The recommendations from this report send the message that nothing more needs to be done. There is no problem. This report, therefore, is a slap in the face to the families of Indigenous women who, once again, put their faith and committed their time towards a study that means very little and accomplishes even less.

This is the latest in 29 studies that have been conducted by Parliament under successive Conservative and Liberal governments. I don't think we have the moral authority to be shocked when yet another featherweight report gets tabled to gather dust.

The systemic racism and sexism that denies dignity to the victims and their families is not being solved, or even mentioned in the recommendations of this report. The systemic causes of poverty which are at the root of so much violence are not being treated with any efficacy. In essence, this report, like others before it, only re-victimizes the women it sets out to "save." I am not shocked, but I am outraged.

There is a darkness to this parliamentary process that reflects the same kind of neglect shown by authorities towards Indigenous women, all the time. Bringing the bereft families of missing and murdered women to testify to parliamentarians and then categorically not heeding their clearly stated recommendations is more than disrespectful. It seeds false hope. It is a process that functions only to fulfill the government's need to say they are doing something while they continue to do nothing. No funding for shelters, no National Public Inquiry, no help to end the housing crisis and no commitment to redress the RCMP are recommended by the Conservative majority on this committee.

Sadly, the Conservatives are not alone. The Liberals were in government for 13 years while conditions worsened for Indigenous women. The root causes of the inequality that Indigenous women face have been around for too long. Real action has been needed for decades.

I do not believe that the act of bringing forth Indigenous witnesses in bad faith is acceptable. Sewing these seeds of false hope is inexcusable. This kind of optics game is typical of what Indigenous people have seen from successive governments. Words are wind.

Only action matters at this point. That is why I tabled a motion to immediately establish a National Action Plan to address Violence Against Women that includes the establishment of a National Public Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

At this point in history, trailing exhaustive studies and in the wake of painful testimony a free standing Inquiry is our only hope at giving justice to the families of the deceased and the disappeared. It is a starting point for establishing real recommendations to change conditions for a new generation of women. The government must act, not speak about creating a future where Indigenous women and girls are valued, cared for and empowered.

Today, I hope women from across the world remember Canada's Stolen Sisters as they chant and march towards gender equality.


Vigil On Parliament Hill For Loretta Saunders