By: Mia Rabson, Winnipeg Free Press | Posted: 06/28/2016
OTTAWA — The Manitoba government is not yet prepared to sign on to participate in the planned national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said Tuesday.
Stefanson said the federal government is working with the provinces right now about the terms of reference for the inquiry and while Manitoba is supportive of the notion of an inquiry, there are still some concerns Manitoba and other provinces have about how far the inquiry will delve into matters of provincial jurisdiction.
“We’re seeking clarification as to what would fall into it,” Stefanson said.
The federal Liberals promised to launch a national inquiry during last year’s election campaign, a departure from the position of the previous Conservative government, which always argued the issue had been studied enough. In December, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu launched a pre-inquiry design process that included meetings with families of victims across the country.
The report from that process was released earlier this year, and the government is now working on the terms of reference with the hope of announcing the inquiry itself later this year.
Federal inquiries can only delve into matters of provincial jurisdiction, such as child welfare or policing, if they correlate to areas of federal jurisdiction or if the provinces agree to include them in the terms of reference.
Stefanson said Manitoba has already done a lot of work on some areas that might be considered, including child welfare with the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry, and the provincial Tories don’t necessarily see the need to go over the same ground.
“We are still in discussions on the terms of reference,” said Stefanson.
She said the ministers responsible at the provincial and federal level had a phone meeting on the subject last week and other provinces raised similar concerns.
The provincial Tories in 2014 voted at a party convention to support the idea of a national round table on murdered and missing women, but in April’s election, Premier Brian Pallister pledged full support to a national inquiry on the matter.
The high rate of violence against Indigenous women was brought to light by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and recent reports from the RCMP supported their claims. RCMP data showed between 1980 and 2012 more than 1,000 Indigenous women were murdered in Canada. Indigenous women account for 16 per cent of homicide victims but four per cent of the population.
On Tuesday Statistics Canada released a new survey on Victimization of Aboriginal People in Canada, which found Indigenous women were more than three times as likely as non-Indigenous women to be victims of violence. The survey, done in 2014, found nine per cent of Indigenous people reported being victims of spousal violence compared to four per cent of non-Indigenous people.
Read more by Mia Rabson.
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