moved for leave to introduce Bill C-510, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mischief).
Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to present my bill, which was previously supported by all parties at second reading but which died on the order paper when the last election was called. I am also pleased to have the bill seconded by my colleague from St. Paul's.
The proposed bill would modify section 430 of the Criminal Code and more specifically subsection 4.1 dealing with mischief caused to property. Previously subsection 4.1 dealt with mischief or vandalism to a building or structure primarily used for religious worship, “including a church, mosque, synagogue or temple”, or an object associated with religious worship and located on the property of the institution in question providing the mischief was motivated “by bias, prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour or national or ethnic origin”.
The bill I am presenting would broaden the applicability of subsection 4.1 to include property used exclusively or principally by the same groups, such as an educational institution, including a school, daycare centre, college or university. It will also include property such as a community centre, playground, arena, sports centre or any institution with an administrative social, cultural, educational or sports function that is used by those same groups.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure that this bill will be unanimously approved by all parties. I look forward to debating it at second reading.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Paul's. I would appreciate it if the member could inform the Chair how she would like to apportion her 15 minutes in terms of questions and answers or a speech.
Mr. Speaker, I want to go over something my colleague just said about the commitment of Liberal governments, starting with Prime Minister Trudeau, and moving to Mr. Chrétien in the 1970s, when he was the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, as it was called at the time, and wrote a white paper on the need for self-determination and self-government for aboriginal peoples. It is no secret that when he came in as prime minister in 1993 that was one of the things he set as a priority. He immediately brought in steps to try to create the infrastructure to improve land claims and to fast-forward them.
It was not only that, but in British Columbia, in my province, where for 100 years aboriginal people have been trying to get land claims established and could not, Mr. Chrétien managed to convince the then Government of British Columbia to start moving forward with land claims. It was fast-forwarded. It was moving very well, and things were happening. Fast-forwarding land claims was an important part of dealing with aboriginal concerns, the ability to give them the autonomy they needed to make decisions about themselves and to govern themselves.
Prime Minister Martin then came in and picked it up. He signed the Kelowna accord with every province in this country being in agreement and treated the aboriginal people as an equal part of government at that table. The Kelowna accord would have devolved responsibility for health, education and housing to aboriginal peoples.
However, we saw what happened. The Conservative government came in 2006, and the Kelowna accord was gone. It was dead in the water. In fact, we now see that the same Prime Minister Paul Martin, no longer in Parliament, is spending his personal fortune to try to move education forward, knowing this is part of the way for aboriginal people to move forward and become autonomous.
I heard some of my colleagues across the way talking about aboriginal women, etcetera, but the point is that the government does not consult with aboriginal peoples. If it consulted with aboriginal peoples, it would understand the cultural differences. This imposition of what we, as non-aboriginal people, think is best for aboriginal people continues even today in this Conservative government's rhetoric.
Thirty years ago, the Canadian Medical Association recognized the link between aboriginal self-government and self-determination and the high rates of disease in aboriginal communities. As president of the British Columbia Medical Association, I ensured that the Council on Health Promotion started something called the aboriginal health committee. We brought in an unusual thing for a medical association. We brought in aboriginal leaders to be part of that community, to talk about self-determination and self-governance, so we could move forward and change those terrible health statistics for aboriginal people.
However, here we are today. We are still seeing high incidences of homelessness and disease in Inuit communities. Diabetes is three times that of our national average, and obesity rates are approximately 40% on reserve. The life expectancy for first nations men is 10 years below non-aboriginal men, and that of aboriginal women is 7 years below that of non-aboriginal women.
We see suicide rates that are 7 times the national average for first nations communities, and 11 times higher for Inuit communities. Infant mortality rates are 1.5 times higher than the national average. HIV-AIDS infections are 3.6 times higher than the non-aboriginal populations. Tuberculosis is 35 times higher on reserve, and 185 times higher, in Nunavut specifically.
In spite of all this, and in spite of the rhetoric we hear from this government, we have seen, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, incremental decreases in budgets going to first nations and Inuit health, infrastructure programs and to mental health. Maternal and child health programs were cut. Suicide prevention programs were cuts.
The Liberals created a healing fund. We did so when we were in government. It was shown by the Department of Indian Affairs, and by everyone who audited, that it was working really well. It was the aboriginal healing fund.
The Prime Minister made a wonderful apology in the House and cut that fund that was actually helping aboriginal people.
The government also walked away from the Northern Dimension Partnership, which is made up of 11 Arctic countries to look at the health of the peoples of the north.
At a time when Canada is chairing the Arctic Council, the Conservatives walked away from this, which saved them $50,000 a year, while the same Prime Minister, who apologized nicely in the House, spent $500,000 to transport his imperial limousines to India.
The same Prime Minister, again I refer to all the wonderful talk and the apologies in the House, has stalled on land claims. The land claims, which were moving forward, at least in my province of British Columbia, very well under a Liberal government, have now stalled completely.
When I chaired the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I visited Labrador and I heard of the violence that women faced there. Face to face they spoke to the fact that when they were trying to escape violence, they had nowhere to go.
When my colleague from St. Paul's talked about shelters, she was not talking about shelters as a permanent thing. Everyone who understands violence knows there has to be a safe place to go. There are no shelters for aboriginal women across the country and if there are, there may be five.
When our committee travelled across the country, we heard that more and more children were taken away from their parents when they tried to flee violence and were put into non-aboriginal homes. In fact, we heard the statistics from provincial governments that more aboriginal children were being taken away from their parents today than were in the residential school era.
Conservative members shut down the report when they won a majority government in the 2011 election. It was the first time that all four political parties agreed on what that recommendation should be. Since then, we have seen nothing further being done on violence against aboriginal women, those on reserve, off reserve and in society at large, yet we hear a lot of rhetoric.
This motion is an appropriate one. We agree with the motion because it is time to stop the rhetoric. It is time to stop listening to all the wondrous phrases that come from across the aisle, the Prime Minister's beautiful apology, everyone berating people on this side of the House who, as a Liberal government, moved significantly forward on this issue.
It is time to stop the rhetoric and it is time to get action going. I do not think we will see it from the Conservatives because they are too busy congratulating themselves on their little pieces of rhetoric than actually intending to do anything.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to first of all thank the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar for her dedication to aboriginal women everywhere.
Our government has introduced legislation to protect thousands of first nations women and children. This bill will allow judges to enforce emergency protection orders for the safety of the woman and the child. Unfortunately, the member for St. Paul's' comments are consistent with the position of the Liberal Party, which voted against these protections.
Opposition leaders should be ashamed, and they should apologize for instructing their caucuses to vote against these protections.
Mr. Speaker, I do not often rise on points of order, but I just cannot remain seated after hearing what the member for St. Paul's screamed out in one of her uncontrolled outbursts, which we hear time and time again in question period.
When the Minister for Status of Women was speaking, the member for St. Paul's was disrespectful in the words she used to try to indicate that aboriginal women who do not have the same rights as other Canadian women ought to go and find shelters as opposed to getting the same rights as all the women here have.
I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, because of the out-of-control outburst by that member every single day, that you might consider putting a camera that way so that when we make points of order, you can actually discipline her for once.
The hon. member for St. Paul's.
Mr. Speaker, for the next few minutes the House will be focusing some attention on the hon. member for Toronto Centre.
He certainly does not need our help to draw attention, but today, his last day in the House as leader of the Liberal Party, he deserves a tribute.
Amid all the eulogistic things that are likely to be said today, I remind members at the outset that the MP for Toronto Centre is not dead, neither will he be retiring anytime soon. He is just changing roles.
We are going to pay a tribute to him because, and I hate that word “interim”, his leadership over the past 22 months has been anything but interim. It has been robust and unstinting, skilful and substantive, and readily applauded by the media, the public, our caucus, the party and indeed by his opponents in the House.
In the middle of his job as leader, we named him Canada's parliamentarian of the year. When I say “we”, I mean all of us in this House together. His peers in all parties voted him number one. God knows the Liberal Party could not have stacked that vote. We were not that organized even when we were in government. That parliamentarian of the year award, amidst all our travails as the so-called third party is a large and unique signal of the respect the member for Toronto Centre has earned across the partisan divide.
As members can imagine, our national Liberal caucus meeting this morning was filled with many emotions as we thanked our leader for the work that he has done over the past two years or so, years that were both difficult and crucial but not without a bit of humour. Like Bette Midler, the MP for St. Paul's over there gushed this morning that the leader has been the “wind beneath [her] wings”. However, the member for Cape Breton—Canso said that maybe someone just passed a bit of gas.
The leader himself addressed the caucus with some poetry. "You, the unwilling,” he said, “led by the all-knowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little, we now feel qualified to do anything with nothing”.
He went on to say, “I know I have not answered all of your questions. The answers I have given only serve to raise big new problems. In some ways, I feel just as confused as ever, but I believe I am now confused on a higher plane and about more important things”. It was indeed quite a caucus meeting.
As other parties in the House like to remind us, the Liberal Party has endured some difficult times since the election of May 2011, perilous times because survival was not guaranteed. More than anyone else, the member for Toronto Centre has given the Liberal Party the opportunity to have a future.
More than anyone, the hon. member for Toronto Centre has given the Liberal Party hope for the future.
He was the right person in the right place at a critical time. With his deep well of experience, his storehouse of knowledge, his understanding and judgment, the vast array of Canadians and international personalities whom he knows and who know him and whose respect he has earned, his oratorical skills in both official languages, his spontaneity in question period, his easy interaction with the media, the deep respect he shows for Parliament and the institutions of our democracy, the consistent principles that guide his conduct when the cameras are rolling and equally when they are not, his kindness and decency; these are characteristics that have shaped his leadership.
Far beyond the House, people struggling with issues such as mental illness, for example, people who have been marginalized by life's circumstances, aboriginal peoples searching for new hope and respect, and many others, have seen in this Liberal leader a reason to believe in the potential and compassion that Canada can offer. Perhaps more than any others, the member for Toronto Centre lives by what Laurier would describe as “sunny ways”, that positive instinct to see the glass always half full, not half empty.
Yes, tough times come along in politics. One reaction is to get angry, to grow bitter, and if one does that, one will diminish and fade. The best lesson from the member for Toronto Centre is to always rise above the petty, look for the best in people, even one's opponents, be fair and always try to build a more inclusive society and a better country.
It was with that attitude that he motivated our caucus and our party, kept us united and helped us to grow, while keeping us visible and relevant.
Perhaps his greatest ally in all this work is his spouse and partner, Arlene. A soul mate, helper, adviser, comforter, confidant and pillar of strength, she and their daughters, Lisa, Judith and Eleanor, have been absolutely indispensable to what has been achieved. Today we say “thank you” to all of them.
We have a future to fight for and hope for another day because of the member for Toronto Centre, and we are grateful.
Order. There is far too much noise at the far end of the chamber. We need to have a bit of order.
Perhaps the member for St. Paul's and the member for Crowfoot could carry on the conversation by sitting a bit closer to each other. Then they would not have to shout across the floor and disrupt the rest of the House.
The hon. parliamentary secretary.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for sharing his time with me, and also for reminding the House that we are not just talking about numbers or statistics. We are talking about something that has touched people's lives for decades now. We are talking about mothers, fathers, brothers, aunts, uncles and children. One of the things that the Native Women's Association of Canada has talked about is the intergenerational trauma that results due to losing a mother, an auntie or a daughter, and how that continues to play out in people's lives. It is very important for us in the House to put that human element, to put that face, on this issue.
I also want to acknowledge the member for St. Paul's for bringing forward the motion. It is timely in light of the report prepared by Human Rights Watch called, “Those Who Take Us Away”. I am going to touch on that report in a few moments.
Before I begin to speak about some of my points, I want to refer to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, article 44, which states, “All the rights and freedoms recognized herein are equally guaranteed to male and female indigenous individuals”. The article is not specifically referring to violence against aboriginal women, but it reminds us that in this country we have committed to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and one of those commitments is that indigenous women in this country will be treated equally, which means that they should have equal access to the justice system. Sometimes people have a misunderstanding of the disparity between how aboriginal women and children are treated versus how non-aboriginal women and children are treated, so we must look at that disparity and move toward equality.
In my early days I was the critic for Status of Women, back in 2004-05, and I have been the aboriginal critic for most of the time since 2006. I would like to be able to say that over the nine years I have been doing this job I have seen an improvement in how first nations, Inuit and Métis women and children are treated, but sadly that is not the case.
A couple of years ago I had the great privilege to meet with some parents from Saskatchewan, whose beautiful young daughter had gone missing. They were on the Hill because they wanted to talk to members of Parliament about the fact that they could not get the police to take seriously that their beautiful daughter had gone missing. She was a mother, a student and a hard worker, all of the things that make many of us very proud of our children. The response by police to the parents' plea was stereotypical, that she was running away from home, that there must have been some abuse and that there was a story involved. They did not pay the same kind of attention to this family's pain. Later they eventually discovered the body of the young woman, but what the parents had to go through in order to get the justice system to pay attention was painful to observe. They came here with a video of their beautiful daughter and asked people to look at who this beautiful young woman was.
There was a situation in my riding a couple of years ago. A 19-year-old first nation girl was murdered. Before the murderer was apprehended, everyone was fearful. All of the young girls in the community were afraid to go out without someone with them. Everyone could see the repercussions of that playing out throughout the community. I am proud to say that in Cowichan, where I live, the first nation and non-first nation communities came together. There were gatherings and marches to let the community know that they were going to stand with each other, but that does not happen in every community.
We only have to look at what happened with the Pickton farm and the subsequent Oppal inquiry. During the inquiry, it was highlighted over and over again that many of the Pickton victims were first nation or aboriginal women and that the justice system failed them time after time. Even in the Oppal inquiry the voices of families, friends and other organizations who supported the families and victims were shut out.
If we are going to move forward, if we are eventually going to have some sort of judicial inquiry, it is very important that those terms of reference are set so that victims and their families are included and are provided resources to be able to engage. If we do not hear from victims and their families, and about that intergenerational trauma, I do not see how we will ever get to the heart of this problem.
Back in 2004-05, the status of women committee was hearing testimony, not into violence against aboriginal women but some other issues around women's organizations. One woman came before the committee and said that there has been report after report on some of these issues. She said that in her office because they cannot afford to get the furniture repaired, she has a broken table and uses a stack of reports to prop up the table. That is how much use and how much attention those reports were given by the governments of the day who commissioned them.
In that context, I am just going to talk briefly about the number of reports that have come forward in Canada that highlight the fact that aboriginal women and children are murdered at a higher rate. The violence is well-documented and yet successive governments have continuously failed to act.
In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples identified a number of factors that are linked to violence in aboriginal communities, including systemic discrimination against aboriginal peoples, economic and social deprivation, alcohol and substance abuse, the intergenerational cycle of violence, the breakdown of healthy family life resulting from residential school upbringing, racism against aboriginal peoples, the impact of colonization on traditional values and culture, and overcrowded and substandard housing.
In 2004 and again in 2008, Amnesty International released reports on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women. Amnesty called on Canada to form a national action plan to address violence against women. The 2004 report did result in some funding going to the Native Women's Association of Canada to start building a database to document the murdered and missing women because, of course, if we do not have the numbers, and these are more than numbers, then it is very difficult to develop a policy or an action plan.
Now what we are seeing is that the Native Women's Association of Canada no longer has the funding to continue on with that work, and the Department of Justice is not going be collecting disaggregated data. Once again we will not have a good handle on exactly how many aboriginal women are murdered or missing every year.
In 2006, in response to the high number of aboriginal women who were murdered or who disappeared along B.C.'s Highway 16, dubbed the Highway of Tears, the aboriginal communities convened a symposium. Part of the task force asked for all levels of government to work together, and identified poverty as one of the leading contributors to the violence that was being experienced by aboriginal women and children.
In 2004, and not for the first time, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recognized the critical situation of aboriginal women in Canada, and recommended that Canada develop a specific and integrated plan for addressing the particular concerns affecting aboriginal women, both on and off reserve, including poverty, poor health, inadequate housing, low school completion rates, low employment rates and low income.
It goes on and on. There are so many different reports and documents that have demonstrated that there is a serious problem in this country, and yet the government's continuing indifference to working with families and other organizations, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada, is very troubling.
We have the motion before the House, and I understand that all parties are going to support the motion. I would hope that not only is the motion supported but that some of the recommendations in the report, “Those Who Take Us Away”, would be implemented more quickly, for example, an independent civil oversight of the RCMP so that victims of violence are able to go to someone they can actually trust. They do not trust the RCMP. There are many good police officers out there, but there are too many cases where women and their children do not feel safe enough to take that information forward. They may come from small communities. They may feel they are too isolated. They may feel they are going to be targeted.
I encourage all members to support the motion, but I truly hope that we act before this committee comes to the end of its mandate.
Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to rise today to speak to this. I acknowledge the previous speaker, who clearly understands the issues and whose heart is in the right place. He is determined to see that this committee gets established. As he is someone who has a clear understanding of these kinds of pressures, I hope that he would also be in that group and bring his expertise to bear, and that we truly can find some answers to these unfortunate and horrific issues that have been going on for such a long time.
A few weeks ago, I also stood on the front steps of Parliament in solidarity with hundreds of men and women who were calling on the government to take action on more than 600 cases involving missing or murdered aboriginal women and girls. Today, I want those people I met outside to know that my support and commitment that day continue on this issue and have only strengthened since we last met. I believe Sisters in Spirit is holding a rally again today to keep this issue going forward and hoping and praying that somehow we can actually get to the bottom of this and do the true investigation that is required. Possibly the success of this motion today, with the help of the government members and the official opposition, would ensure that it is a start and that it would eventually evolve, with the reason that we need a truly independent inquiry to find out exactly what has happened. Everything has to get started somewhere and if today's motion is the beginning, then let that be it.
I am here to add my voice to that of my colleague who has done an enormous amount of work on this issue, the Liberal member for St. Paul's who has sponsored this opposition day motion today for the Liberals.
We know that more than 600 native women have been murdered or have disappeared in the past few years and little has been done to solve these cases. That has to be of huge interest and concern to all of us. This number represents 10% of all homicides in Canada, despite the fact that the native population, native women in particular, accounts for just 3% of the Canadian population. Let us look at it another way. I hate to say this, but when we look at the background over the 30 years that this has been ongoing, we see that if this had been happening to non-native Canadian women at the same rate, more than 20,000 women would have been murdered by now. As parliamentarians, would we stand back and say it is unfortunate, too bad, but we cannot do anything about it? No, we would not. We would all be in an outrage, every one of us in here demanding action and more thorough investigations to get the answers to this. We would not just be asking for an inquiry. We would be doing far more.
This qualifies in my mind as an epidemic, and the response from the government, up until today, has been nothing short of shameful, which is why it is hopeful to hear such positive comments coming from the government in response to our motion today. The victims and families deserve better than to be forgotten. Most of us have met, in some of the rallies here on the Hill, the families of some of these victims. They have daughters just as we do, and they want answers. They cannot bring their daughters back, but they want to at least know that justice is done.
Earlier today, the parliamentary secretary took offence at the opposition MP saying that government had done nothing to respond to the crisis. She went on to say that the government has built a new database, launched school pilot projects and created a website to help us deal with this, and that is very positive. However, that is not dealing with the 600 women who have never had an answer and never had justice. Creating a website is not enough. Creating a database is for the future. We still need to do an inquiry or at least establish a committee today to see that we look into exactly what was happening. If it helps, there is a website, which is a start, but I do hope it goes further and that we move forward on these issues.
This is not a partisan issue. It is an issue that has been talked about for the 13-plus years that I have been in the House. It is an issue I believe we all care about, but no one seems to take any action to really look into the fact that 600 aboriginal women are missing or murdered, and little has been done to bring justice to them or to find out exactly what has happened.
It is not about politics. It is about mobilizing all of us to come together and to work with the appropriate authorities to do a thorough investigation so that we can provide justice and healing for all of these families and put an end to an epidemic, because it has not stopped. It continues along the Highway of Tears.
For the sake of clarity today, the Liberals are asking that a special committee be struck to look into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. We have asked for an inquiry many times. We have committed that, if we were the government, we would strike one. Nothing has happened. There has been no action from the government. We are hoping today that the striking of a special committee of all parties will actually start moving that whole issue forward.
We are simply looking for ways that the federal government can act to address the root cause of this intolerable violence, something that the Conservatives, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, have said is a priority for the government. Let us practise what we preach and let us have the government start to move forward in that direction.
I fear most people in Canada do not fully appreciate the seriousness of the crimes, of 600 documented cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. I will give the breakdown: 67% of those 600 cases are clearly murder cases; 20% of the cases are of missing women and girls; the nature of 9% of the cases is unknown, and that is to say it is unclear whether the woman was murdered, is missing or died under suspicious circumstances; 55% of those cases involve women and girls under the age of 31, with 17% of the women and girls under the age of 18.
Many of these young women were 14 and 15 years old. Most of them disappeared in or around the Highway of Tears that was referred to earlier. It is a sad thing to have in any province a highway that is referred to as the Highway of Tears. It is a constant reminder of these missing aboriginal women and girls.
The national clearance rate for homicides in Canada is 84%, which means that there is an answer to 84% of those cases, so at least we know what happened. Yet almost half of the homicides that involve aboriginal women and girls remain unsolved. They are missing, presumed murdered. Nobody knows how, nobody knows at whose hands and how it happened. That is an unacceptable rate for our country. We have to be embarrassed about that.
The 84% rate for the national clearance should be the same rate for the aboriginals. It clearly shows a lack of respect and concern for many of the individual women and girls out there. It makes us wonder if anybody really cares, other than the parents, about these young women.
If hundreds of women and girls went missing or were murdered in our communities and our ridings, there would be outrage, and immediate action would be demanded. It is just completely unacceptable for anyone in this House to accept that this kind of inaction continues.
The time for real action is now, because this collective tragedy has already impacted on many of our communities. It has impacted on Canada's reputation. The United Nations has created a committee of its own to look into the issue of the missing aboriginal women and girls. It is pretty significant when the United Nations, not Canada, has to create a committee to look into something that our own country refuses to look into for our own citizens' sake.
Let us remember that Highway 16 is a very long and winding road that runs through dozens of small communities in western Canada. For example, the communities in and around Prince George on Highway 16 and Williams Lake on Highway 97 have all lost daughters in the past 20 years. I would expect that the Conservative member for Prince George—Peace River, as the MP representing these areas, would have a deep and personal interest in seeing action.
I am quite confident that member will be very supportive of this motion today, to start seeing some sort of action and bring closure for the families, but most importantly, to identify the people responsible for this so that the families can have closure and justice can be seen to be done. I would also hope to lead the charge to ensure that a committee is created and that the police have the resources required to finally resolve the cases.
We continue to hear from people in many small, isolated communities, which rely on the RCMP and others, that they require additional support because they do not have enough support to do things in these communities that are spread out over huge geographic areas that are difficult to patrol. They have tremendous difficulty doing that.
If that is the issue, then let us find ways to solve it. Those are the kinds of recommendations that would come out of an independent inquiry or parliamentary committee. Necessary recommendations would be made so that this issue can move forward and further cases can be prevented from emerging. This will continue until somebody stops it and it is not going to stop until we fully understand how 600 aboriginal women and girls could disappear or be murdered with no one knowing what happened to them. It is pretty insulting in a country like ours that brags so much about its crime agenda. Let us pay a little more attention to the victims.
Inasmuch as this debate is about creating a special committee to look into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, it is also about so much more. Eradicating the problem of violence against aboriginal women and girls involves addressing the root causes of the violence, notably sexism, racism and poverty, causes that are very predominant in many communities. Aboriginal women and girls are far more likely than any other Canadian women or girls to experience violence and die as a result. This has to be addressed once and for all. It cannot continue on and on, with nobody asking what has happened.
The status of women committee did some fabulous work on a report looking into this prior to the 2011 election. It came up with some concrete recommendations based on the work it was able to do. It went out to various areas and interviewed many women and young girls about the kinds of challenges they were experiencing and what needed to be done. Unfortunately, after the election, that study did not continue because there was a different agenda at play for the committee.
In 2005 the Liberal government of the day invested $10 million through the Native Women's Association of Canada to identify those root causes. Things like trends and circumstances of violence that led to the disappearance and death of aboriginal women and girls were to be explored. That was the whole intent of that $10 million investment by the Liberals in 2005. As members here will know, part of that funding went to Sisters in Spirit, the organization that is conducting the rally on the Hill today, whose research initiative was responsible for tracking and collecting the names of over 600 missing and murdered women and girls. Without the work of Sisters in Spirit, we might not even know the full gravity of the number of young women and girls who went missing.
As members will also know, in 2010 the current government cut that funding and mandated that any future funding for the Native Women's Association could not be used for the Sisters in Spirit initiative. It was very shortsighted, but that was the decision made by the government and we have to deal with the percussions of that decision. All of this was despite the fact that the Oppal commission on missing women and Human Rights Watch make it very clear that there are serious shortcomings in our policing and justice systems, which too often have failed to protect native women and girls.
A report was released yesterday by Human Rights Watch. It is very concerning to read the recommendations in that report about the activity that appears to go on in British Columbia, with no one caring a whole lot and with women being raped and being too intimidated to file a report, too frightened to put their name forward because they are afraid of the repercussions.
These women talk about what has happened to people who have complained about how they have been treated when they have reached out and have asked for help. They continue to raise the kinds of issues that Parliament and the RCMP need to deal with, similar to what the Status of Women is doing.
Why is there so little interest? Despite knowing that there is a serious problem impacting hundreds of young women, why has the government dug in and until today refused to act proactively?
The global community is asking the same questions. Canada has been criticized by bodies like Amnesty International and even by the United Nations. As I mentioned earlier, in 2011 the United Nations established its own committee to look into this. Now we have the United Nations looking into an issue that is on our plate. It is expected for us to be dealing with it.
The United Nations is looking at why we have failed to investigate and address the violence against indigenous women and girls. It is pretty insulting for a country as proud as Canada.
Unfortunately, it took the tragic loss of Nicole Hoar in 2002 to finally bring the Highway of Tears debate to the national stage. How many other women are going to have to be murdered or go missing before we actually provide the resources needed to turn this issue around?
Nicole was a non-native who disappeared after setting out from Prince George. Her disappearance caused a huge media and public uproar and it finally drew a line in the sand. Why did all the other women who went missing and who were native not get any of that attention, not in Parliament nor the media?
People have to understand that when we talk about racism, it is still very much alive and present. I wish it had not taken her disappearance to prompt action, but today we have a chance to help ensure that others in the area do not meet the same fate.
Conservatives claim that they stand up for the victims of crime. Today they have an opportunity to show that. We are asking the Conservatives to join with us and to stand up for missing and murdered women. These people are our mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts and cousins and are the families that loved and cherished them and are looking for justice.
We owe it to all of them to honour their memory and to support the motion before us today.
The electoral district of St. Paul's (Ontario) has a population of 111,131 with 81,588 registered voters and 225 polling divisions.
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