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article imageOp-Ed: Stephen Harper is wrong about missing women inquiry

By Ben Morris     Aug 23, 2014 in Politics
Whitehorse - Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims the high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women is a crime problem, not a sociological problem, and no inquiry is needed. He is flat out wrong.
Tina Fontaine was a 15-year-old aboriginal girl who was found wrapped in a bag, floating in the Red River. Her death is being treated as a homicide, but police have very few answers, and a lot of questions. How a teenager can meet such a violent death is a shock to anyone, but when you consider facts P.M Harper ignores, what is shown is a staggering epidemic of violence directed at aboriginal women.
Earlier this year, the RCMP called for a national inquiry to answer why aboriginal women are far more susceptible to violence, and murder than other women throughout the country. Their report noted, since 1980, 1,181 aboriginal women have gone missing, or have been murdered. Those numbers show just a template of the real issue regarding indigenous women and their susceptibility to violence.
The Violent victimization of Aboriginal women in the Canadian provinces, report from 2009 showed terrible statistics that paint a horrid picture.
In 2009, close to 67,000 Aboriginal women aged 15 or older living in the Canadian provinces reported being the victim of violence in the previous 12 months. Overall, the rate of self-reported violent victimization among Aboriginal women was almost three times higher than the rate of violent victimization reported by non-Aboriginal women.
• Close to two-thirds (63%) of Aboriginal female victims were aged 15 to 34. This age group accounted for just under half (47%) of the female Aboriginal population (aged 15 or older) living in the ten provinces. Young females were also highly represented among non-Aboriginal victims.
• The majority of violent incidents against Aboriginal women committed outside of a spousal relationship did not result in injury (84%) and did not involve the use of a weapon (89%).
• Over three-quarters (76%) of non-spousal violent incidents involving Aboriginal women were not reported to the police, a proportion similar to that for non-Aboriginal women (70%).
• Among victims of spousal violence, close to six in ten Aboriginal women reported being injured during the 5 years preceding the survey, compared to four in ten non-Aboriginal women (59% versus 41%).
These are just few of the sobering statistics that caused two premiers to speak up against Harper's asinine views. Speaking to the Canadian Press, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was quoted as saying "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." Even Manitoba's highly unpopular premier Greg Selinger criticized Harper by claiming, “As Canadians, I believe we want to look after each other, and I think we want to protect the most vulnerable, especially missing and murdered aboriginal women from being victimized. It’s an issue that affects communities all across Canada.”
Over 100 of the estimated 824 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada are from Selinger's province, so he has first hand knowledge of the problem. After Fontaine's body was discovered, a vigil was held to commemorate her life, and call for an inquiry, yet again to figure out why so many indigenous women have died, or gone missing. One woman Doreen Merasty was quoted in The Globe and Mail saying, “Why should our women go missing or die? Each case comes with its own story – its own family [left behind]. Speaking about her missing sister, Merasty called for an investigation to uncover the mystery.“The government has a duty to do something … I want to find my sister. I want to bury her if I have to.”
This issue has been going on for decades, seemingly every week news hits about another missing aboriginal woman, or a body being found. Aboriginal communities have been screaming at the top of their lungs for the federal government to take action, but the federal Conservatives have closed their ears, unlike the government of British Columbia.
In 2007, Robert Pickton was convicted of six counts of murder. What made the case even more disgusting is the fact that police failed to act until 2002 after dozens of women went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The failures of Vancouver Police and the RCMP allowed Pickton to continue his murderous rampage of mostly aboriginal women. In 2012, the Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry found law enforcement failed to implement typical investigative tools like "-surveillance, undercover operations, search warrants and forensic evidence.”
Pickton was allowed to commit murder unimpeded thanks to the failure of the courts to prosecute Pickton in 1997, after he was alleged to have tied up and stabbed an aboriginal prostitute. The findings of the inquiry and good investigative reporting exposed the many law enforcement failures that allowed Pickton to keep on killing. B.C police, and the RCMP have now been given new strategies to prevent the serial killing of more aboriginal women, but without a national inquiry law enforcement may not know what they are doing wrong, and the public will remain ignorant to the risks of aboriginal women.
The issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women has gone on far too long without any investigation. For every Tina Fountaine, there is a Helen Betty Osborne, an aboriginal woman killed by four men, only one of which was actually convicted. By speaking out against an inquiry, Stephen Harper is showing his lack of concern, and laziness regarding missing and murdered aboriginal women. The statistics show there is a problem with violent death and aboriginal women, to ignore those stats is a sickening example of a lack of leadership.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Stephen Harper, missing aboriginal women, Rcmp, missing women's inquiry, tina fountaine
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