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,
He said this in response to a question about a report from the
United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
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
The 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
reported that at least 10 women had gone missing
from Vancouver’s drug-riddled Downtown Eastside since 1995.