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Inquiry ‘likely’ into missing aboriginal women

Strahl has held talks with Native Women’s Association of Canada



The federal government is considering a commission of inquiry to investigate disappearances of aboriginal women, a cabinet minister and local MP said Thursday, Nov. 27.

Chuck Strahl, the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and MP for the Pemberton Valley, told a late-afternoon conference call that the government is considering a commission to investigate cases of missing women, “particularly” aboriginals.

He said this in response to a question about a report from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

However, whether Strahl’s Conservative Party remains in power long enough to convene a commission of inquiry remains to be seen. The opposition Liberals have signed an agreement to form a coalition government with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois and vowed to bring the Conservatives down in a confidence vote.

CEDAW has expressed concern that “hundreds of cases involving Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past two decades” either haven’t been fully investigated or have not received “priority attention,” with perpetrators walking away unpunished.

Strahl said he met with Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, on Thursday and discussed with her ways to address the issue of missing women.

“We’re going to put together an action plan for violence against women, particularly aboriginal women, who are unfortunately the single biggest group of abused people in the country,” he said.

“Whether that needs to be a formal inquiry on this or not we’ve agreed to work with Ms. Jacobs, and several other departments. I’m not going to launch an inquiry because it would have to come through the Justice Department or a combination of the above.”

Commissions of inquiry, however, don’t need to come through Justice Canada. They may be discussed within the department but they are established through orders-in-council, decisions made by a federal cabinet that are thereafter approved by the Governor-General.

Jacobs, a member of the Iroquois Confederacy of Ontario’s Six Nations council, thinks an inquiry is “highly likely.” She said that if there were 510 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada that would equal 18,000 women among Canada’s white population.

“If there were 18,000 white women missing and murdered, it would be headlines,” she said. “There would be something done immediately.”

The issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada stretches back at least to 1998, when the Vancouver Sun reported that at least 10 women had gone missing from Vancouver’s drug-riddled Downtown Eastside since 1995.