Tag Archives: Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Harper Again Rejects Call For Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada


By Tamara Khandaker | Vice News

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has once again rejected a call to conduct a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, saying “we are way past the time for further study.”

Harper, who is running for re-election, was asked Tuesday by VICE’s Matty Matheson at a rally in Whitby, Ontario, whether he would change his position on the UN-requested inquiry.

“Our government position on this has been very clear,” said Harper. “We have moved forward with a whole series of criminal justice reforms that deal with the problems of violence against people generally, violence against women in particular.”

Harper said there have already been about 40 studies on the topic, and that the ruling Conservatives were moving forward with a plan of action that “deals with issues of prevention, investments in preventative services, particularly on reserves, that deals with issues of inquiry, of investigation.”

“Most of these murders, sad as they are, are in fact solved,” he said. “We are way past the time for further study, this is a time for action, and our government is going to proceed with our action plan.”

In a 2014 report, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) found 1,107 Aboriginal women had been murdered and another 164 went missing between the years 1980 and 2012. It surveyed data from all police jurisdictions across the country.

As of June 2015, 106 murder and 98 missing cases remained unresolved, according to the RCMP.

This means about 90 percent of the murder cases have been solved.

According to the report, solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal homicide victims are comparable, but they differ depending on the province.

For example, in Nova Scotia, the solve rates are 80 percent, while in New Brunswick, they are 100 percent for Aboriginal women. For non-Aboriginal women, they’re as low as 84 percent in British Columbia, and as high as 100 percent in PEI, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. However, the rates fluctuate when the numbers are small, like in Atlantic Canada.

The report also says certain homicides appear to be resolved less frequently — for example, for Aboriginal victims in the sex trade, the solve rate is less than 60 percent, while for non-Aboriginal victims, it’s 65 percent.

The overall average time to solve female homicide was similar — 212 days on average, with an average clearance time of 224 days for Aboriginal women and 205 days for non-Aboriginal women.

In 2013, Aboriginal women represented 4.3 percent of the overall female population. They were overrepresented in figures related to homicides, however, representing 16 percent of all homicide victims.

The New Democratic Party has promised to initiate an inquiry within 100 days of forming a government.

At a town hall hosted by VICE Canada in Toronto on Monday, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau reiterated his support for a government-funded inquiry.

“We need a national public inquiry into the tragedy that are the missing and murdered indigenous girls,” he said. “We need to get justice for the victims. We need healing for the family. And we need to ensure as a society, as a country, that we stop this ongoing tragedy.”

Trudeau criticized those who contend that such a public airing isn’t necessary.

“That’s almost worse. If people think they already know what the problem is, then why haven’t they fixed it,” said Trudeau. “I think we actually still need to dig into the reasons behind this and how we’re going to move forward and how we’re going to prevent this from continuing to happen.”

In May 2014, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya released a report, calling the government’s efforts to address problems faced by indigenous people “insufficient.”

He echoed calls from Canadian politicians, native groups, and other UN members, urging the Harper government to launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women.


Native Leaders Call For Action, Not More Talk

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

By Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Dawn Lavell Harvard says the time for well-intentioned but often empty talk is over.

The president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, along with other national aboriginal leaders, will step up pressure for action when they meet Wednesday with provincial and territorial premiers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L.

They’re calling for detailed work plans to go with the photo ops and communiques from their yearly sit-down with the Council of the Federation.

“The most pressing concern we have right now in our communities is the ongoing level of violence,” Lavell Harvard said from Ottawa.

She believes provinces should step in as the federal Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuse to call a public inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt was among federal officials who attended a national roundtable on the issue last winter. They highlighted justice investments and a five-year, $25-million plan to reduce related violence as proof of action, saying an inquiry isn’t necessary.

“We want to see concrete action,” Lavell Harvard said. “Policing, access to justice, equity and discrimination issues.

“We need to push the provinces to do more.”

The 2011 National Household Survey suggests indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the national female population. But the RCMP has said they’re victims in 16 per cent of female homicides and account for 11 per cent of missing women.

The Mounties have reported that almost 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or have vanished since 1980, and that attackers are often known to the victims.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the issue will be front and centre Wednesday.

He also said the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released last month must not gather dust.

“The TRC recommendations and calls to action captured the whole country and the world,” he said in an interview. “We just need to give them life.”

The commission described as “cultural genocide” the suffering borne by generations of aboriginal children in once-mandatory residential schools.

It estimated more than 6,000 boys and girls, about one in 25, died in the institutions. Scores of others endured horrific physical and sexual abuse.

The commission made 94 recommendations toward reconciliation, urging Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework.

Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, representing about 55,000 Canadian Inuit, said disproportionate numbers of aboriginal children in provincial care will also be discussed.

“If we could only get the federal government to the table, that would definitely go a long way.”

Harper’s long-standing absence from first ministers’ meetings sends a strong message, Bellegarde said.

“If we’re going to rebuild this country, we need all levels of leadership to be there.”

Provinces need to start hinging resource development on company commitments to consult, employ and share benefits with aboriginal people, Bellegarde said.

Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council, notes the meeting will take place near the $8.6-billion Muskrat Falls hydro development.

His group, representing about 6,000 Inuit-Metis in southern Labrador, says it wasn’t properly consulted and is challenging the project in court.

The Nunatsiavut government has also raised alarms about how potential mercury contamination from flooding could affect Lake Melville, a food source for 2,000 Inuit.

Host Premier Paul Davis said the province reached a major benefits agreement on Muskrat Falls with the Innu Nation.

“I think there is great value in ensuring it happens on a more consistent basis not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but across the country,” he said in an interview.

Davis said the premiers’ working group on aboriginal affairs has been crafting action plans for several matters, including violence against women. Truth and Reconciliation Commission members Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild will speak to the meeting in Labrador about how provinces can respond, he added.

The premiers move to St. John’s for sessions Thursday and Friday, including energy and economic issues, health care, trade and climate change.

The Canadian Press

Follow @suebailey on Twitter.


PM Harper Said He Opposed UN Declaration Adoption During Meeting With TRC Commissioners

(Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Murray Sinclair (left) and APTN host Cheryl McKenzie during an interview Tuesday)

(Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Murray Sinclair (left) and APTN host Cheryl McKenzie during an interview Tuesday)

APTN National News

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Chair Murray Sinclair said Prime Minister Stephen Harper remains unconvinced of the need for Canada to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In an interview with APTN host Cheryl McKenzie, Sinclair said he and the TRC’s other commissioners, Marie Wilson and Wilton Littlechild, met with Harper Tuesday afternoon.

When McKenzie asked if the prime minister expressed any disagreement with the TRC’s recommendations contained in a report released earlier in the day, Sinclair said the prime minister maintained his opposition to adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Well obviously the adoption of UN declaration, which the government just voted down a few weeks ago in the House,” said Sinclair, referring to a private member’s bill from Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash.

Sinclair said the TRC isn’t necessarily calling for the declaration to be written into law because it would require a more complicated process involving the provinces.

“We have indicated in our report, we think utilizing the (UN declaration) as a framework for reconciliation,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair said during the meeting Harper showed he is well versed in the history of residential schools.

“He had things to say about the issues around the evolution of residential schools in the country which led me to believe he is well up on the topic,” he said. “We didn’t agree on some of the (recommendations). He did agree there is an obligation that there be ongoing discourse.”

Sinclair also said Harper needs to read his commission’s report if he’s not yet convinced the Indian residential schools system was a central element in Canada’s policy of cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples.

Sinclair said the report makes a clear case the intention of the schools was to wipe out Indigenous culture.

During question period Tuesday, Harper refused to back the TRC report’s conclusion on cultural genocide. Instead, the prime minister chose to use the words “forced assimilation” when pressed on the issue by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

“I think (Harper) needs to read out report. Our report is pretty clear about what was going on and what was intended,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair said it wouldn’t be a large leap for Harper to reach the same conclusion, given the language used in his 2008 apology to residential schools.

“(In the 2008 apology) he acknowledged that the phrase, ‘kill the Indian in the child’ was the intention behind residential schools,” said Sinclair. “It wouldn’t be a leap.”

Sinclair said the commissioners of the TRC also offered to be part of any efforts toward reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

“The conversation really needs to be between the Aboriginal community and the government of Canada and we think we can help that,” said Sinclair.

The TRC released a summary of its final report on Tuesday. The final report will be issued sometime later this year.


PM Harper Failing To Fulfill Mulroney’s Oka Promise On Modern Treaties

(Mohawks from Kahnawake battle with Canadian soldiers during the 1990 Oka crisis. File/photo)

(Mohawks from Kahnawake battle with Canadian soldiers during the 1990 Oka crisis. File/photo)

By APTN National News

As the smoke was clearing from the 1990 Oka Crisis, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney wrote to the premiers of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon about the long, hot summer saying his government would be responding to the demands of “Aboriginal people” in four parts.

At the top of the list was “resolving land claims.”

Mulroney assured the two premiers the issue would receive Ottawa’s full attention.

“The federal government is determined to create a new relationship among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians based on dignity, trust and respect,” wrote Mulroney to former NWT premier Dennis Patterson and former Yukon Premier Tony Penikett in near-identical letters dated Nov. 15, 1990.

The other issues on the list included, “defining a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and governments,” also “improving the economic and social conditions on reserves” and “addressing the concerns of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples in contemporary Canadian life.”

Throughout the summer-long crisis in Kanesatake and Kahnawake which spread across the country, the issue of comprehensive claims, or modern treaties, continued to crop up as a major irritant from the First Nation side. Pundits and First Nation representatives who appeared on CBC, CTV and other local cable newscasts repeatedly mentioned the need for Ottawa to overhaul its approach to comprehensive claims. APTN did not exist at the time.

In response, after the guns, tanks and helicopters faded from television screens, Mulroney began an overhaul of the land claim system. First, he eliminated the six-claim cap on the number of negotiations Ottawa would deal with at any one time. In 1992, the British Columbia-specific treaty table was created and in 1993 former Progressive Conservative Indian affairs minister Tom Siddon unveiled an overhaul of Ottawa’s comprehensive claim and specific claims policies.

The Letters

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Click To Open Letters

Since then, only four B.C. modern treaties have been settled while First Nations involved in the process have amassed about $500 million worth in loans from the federal government to pay for negotiations. As of January 2013, Canada has issued $1 billion in loans and non-repayable contributions to First Nation groups involved in claims talks which can take up to three decades to reach a final agreement.

It’s also emerged that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet has stalled three modern treaty negotiations for two years.

As it nears the end of its first majority mandate and its ninth year in power, the Harper government is only now beginning to address the issue of comprehensive land claims and folding it into a process named to imply a redefinition of Ottawa’s relationship with its Indigenous nations.

It’s called the “reconciliation framework” and it was first mentioned by Ottawa in a statement issued by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office last Thursday in response to the release of a report by former federal negotiator Douglas Eyford.

Eyford was appointed last July by Valcourt to meet with dozens of First Nations across the country on improving Ottawa’s comprehensive land claims policy. As his report points out, Eyford travelled well tilled soil. The federal comprehensive claims policy has been updated three times since its 1973 creation. There have also been eight studies or reports on the issue since 1983, including a 2006 report from the federal Auditor General and two Senate reports, in 2008 and 2012.

“Many of the issues I have considered are neither new nor unforeseen. The observations, findings, and recommendations of these reports remain relevant and compelling despite the passage of time, legal developments, and changes in policy having placed some of the issues in a different context,” said Eyford, in the report.

Comprehensive claims encompass territorial claims, self-government and Aboriginal rights. They are negotiated in areas not covered by so-called “surrender” treaties or numbered treaties. The majority of these claims stem from British Columbia, the North, parts of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Specific claims generally stem from historical grievances over loss of land or the misuse of monies held in trust by Ottawa.

Eyford’s report also mentions a “reconciliation framework” and issues recommendations on its possible creation.

“Canada’s commitment to reconciliation should be reflected in a new framework that: continues to support modern treaty negotiations, but addresses institutional barriers…provides a rights-informed approach to treaty-making,” said the report. “(It should also offer) other reconciliation arrangements for Aboriginal groups that are not interested in negotiating a comprehensive land claims agreement…and improves the implementation of modern treaties and other agreements with Aboriginal groups.”

Valcourt’s office is saying little about its own vision for this new framework aside from sending links to the department’s interim comprehensive claims policy which was widely panned by First Nation groups.

In an emailed statement, Valcourt’s office said the reconciliation framework is simply the renamed “framework for addressing Section 35 Aboriginal Rights.” The minister also has no plans to roll anything out soon.

“This framework will be developed incrementally and through dialogue with partners,” said the statement. “Over the coming months, we will engage with Aboriginal groups as well as other stakeholders, including those who provided input during the engagement meetings (with Eyford), in order to seek their feedback on those recommendations.”

Valcourt’s framework plans, however, are getting a lukewarm response from the Assembly of First Nations.

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Valcourt needed to open direct discussions with First Nations on the issue.

“Any work on a ‘reconciliation framework’ needs to be discussed directly with First Nations,” said Bellegarde. “We are concerned that this government is relying too much on ministerial special representatives and other agents when the federal government has a duty to engage directly with First Nations.”

It all seems a far cry from what was promised following the Oka crisis by the Mulroney government of which Valcourt was once a part.

“I have great respect for the peaceful and patient manner in which most chiefs, elders and Aboriginal people have expressed their grievances and my government will continue to work with these individuals to find appropriate measures to respond to the needs and concerns of Aboriginal people,” said the letters, which Mulroney signed. “These grievances raise issues that deeply affect all Canadians and therefore must be resolved by all Canadians working together.”

According to a memo sent to Mulroney with draft responses to the two premiers, the letters “were developed in consultation with the Department of Indian Affairs.”

The Memo

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Click To Open Memo

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