A full public inquiry is needed to end the silence around abuse of aboriginal women. It should be among Justin Trudeau’s first acts as prime minister.
If any more proof was needed that this country has to come to grips with the systematic abuse of aboriginal women, it came out of northwestern Quebec late last week.
In the town of Val-d’Or, a group of women from the surrounding Algonquin native reserves came forward to accuse officers from Quebec’s provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec, of sexual assault and other abuse of power.
Some say they were forced to have sex with policemen. Others say they were dumped far out of town on frigid nights, forcing them to walk kilometres in the snow. Eight officers have been suspended, and the province promises an independent inquiry.
The abuse of native women across Canada has been going on for far too long, mostly unreported. Finally, with the election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals last week, the country is about to get a national government committed to an inquiry into the approximately 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women identified by the RCMP since 1980.
That can’t come soon enough, and the revelations in Val-d’Or underscore the need for action. The women making the charges of abuse there are neither murdered nor missing. But their sickening allegations speak directly to the way too many aboriginal people — especially women — have been treated.
Others had made similar claims for years, but they were simply ignored. Still others may never have come forward, given the deep distrust of institutions such as the police that First Nations people have quite understandably developed.
A full public inquiry is needed to end the silence and rebuild trust. It should be among Trudeau’s first acts as prime minister.