Action must include inquiry

Our federal government should agree to hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Japreet Lehal

Japreet Lehal


hile some progress has been made in ensuring greater equality for women, much more action is needed.

At home in Canada, our federal government should agree to hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada states that 668 aboriginal women are missing or murdered. Other statistics and reports find that aboriginal women suffer higher rates of poverty. Human Rights Watch has also found cases in which police have abused their powers against aboriginal women in northern BC.

While the government has enacted certain legislation and given funding for initiatives aiming to tackle the issues, not enough has been done to rectify the matter at hand.

The day before International Women’s Day, March 8, the federal Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women released its report, which included recommendations related to an “awareness campaign, support for the family of victims, support for communities, police services, (action to reduce) violence against women and girls, and other supports.”

It did not, however, include a recommendation for a national public inquiry.

While the report’s 16 recommendations are a step in the right direction, a national inquiry could help in better understanding the factors which lead to a disproportionately high number of indigenous women and girls being missing or murdered.

By thoroughly examining the causes and underlying issues, more effective and stronger steps could be taken to deal with the matter.

Witnesses in the special committee’s “Invisible Women: A Call to Action” report felt that a national inquiry would allow “victims’ friends and family to be heard,” as well as increase awareness about the violence facing aboriginal women.

Ultimately, they felt that an inquiry would help create a “national action plan” with “benchmarks,” so that the problems facing aboriginal women could come to an end.

Last year, David Langtry, acting chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, stated that: “The murder or disappearance of some 600 Aboriginal women and girls over the past 30 years is a national tragedy… We must get to the root causes of these disturbing facts.”

Thousands of people from across the country, in addition to human rights organizations, opposition political parties and the Native Women’s Association of Canada and Assembly of First Nations, are calling for a national inquiry. In 2013, premiers from across Canada and a UN Special Rapporteur supported a national inquiry as well.

In the wake of the tragic death of Loretta Saunders and the hundreds of other indigenous women that have been murdered or are missing, it is important that we all support a national inquiry.

As Canadians who believe in justice and human rights, it is imperative that we take all steps necessary to prevent any more such tragedies from happening.

The federal government rightly states that “action” needs to be taken on the matter, but full and proper action can only be taken if all voices are heard and a thorough inquiry is conducted.

Japreet Lehal, a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey, writes monthly for Peace Arch News.


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