New Democrats Call For Inquiry Into Canada’s “Stolen Sisters”

Honouring Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women - Photo by Tannis Smith.
Honouring Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women - Photo by Tannis Smith.
Honouring Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women - Photo by Tannis Smith.
Honouring Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women – Photo by Tannis Smith.

New Democrat MP John Rafferty on Murdered and Missing Women

THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Some major developments over the past week, some horrible others good, have given new momentum to the idea of a national inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

If you’ve seen the evening new over the past week or two, then you know the grim story of 15 year old Tina Fontaine. Tina was a young indigenous women and resident of Winnipeg. Her body was found in a suitcase in the Red River on August 17th and she was laid to rest last weekend.  In describing her situation, Sgt. John O’Donovan of Winnipeg police’s homicide unit told reporters that; “She’s barely been in the city for a little over a month and she’s definitely been exploited, taken advantage of, murdered and put into the river in this condition.”

Tina is far from the only victim of violence against indigenous women just the latest and perhaps the one that will be remembered as the tipping point for action.  She now is one of more than 1200 indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada over the past 30 years. For years now, a movement has been growing that wants a judicial inquiry into these missing and murdered indigenous women. Tina’s murder, as sickening and violent as it was, may have done what others have failed, and that is to help create a national consensus among Canada’s political leaders for such an inquiry. Well, near consensus that is.

New Democrats have called for an inquiry into Canada’s “stolen sisters” for more than a decade.  Libby Davies, who represents the east side of Vancouver and a part of that city where there are many vulnerable indigenous women living and working, first raised the issue in Parliament in 2001. She was joined by Jack Layton who also began to call publicly for an inquiry as early as 2009.  When he was elected New Democrat Leader in 2012 Tom Mulcair renewed these calls, and this past week in what may be the first promise by any party in the 2015 election campaign, he promised that a New Democrat government would call a judicial inquiry into these missing and murdered indigenous women within 100 days of the NDP assuming office.

While the New Democrat position on this issue has been known for a decade I was glad to hear other voices join the movement this week. During their annual Council of the Federation in PEI this week Canada’s Premiers unanimously urged the Harper Conservative government to call an inquiry. New Democrats like Manitoba’s Greg Selinger, Conservatives like Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall, Liberals like Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne, and non-partisan Premiers like Brad McLeod of the Northwest Territories all stood in unanimity on this issue.

The Premiers of Canada’s provinces weren’t the only ones to join the call for an inquiry this week. At a council meeting this week Thunder Bay City Council voted, again unanimously, to support the call for a national inquiry. The level of violent crime, including murder, in Thunder Bay is something that most residents are aware of and concerned about, but people also know that indigenous people are in many cases at a higher risk than average to become victims, and women and children even more so.  It’s easy to say that such things are “another government’s” problem, but I’m glad Thunder Bay council decided to show leadership on this issue where others have failed to.

Sadly, the only government that doesn’t think a national inquiry is needed is Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative government. Depending on the day, the excuses for the Harper Government range from it would be “too expensive” to it’s simply not needed because they have already passed a series of “tough on crime laws.”  To this I would respond; if $100 million is not too much to spend on partisan Economic Action Plan ads then $50 million to find out what has happened to 1200 missing and murdered women is quite affordable, and the Conservative tough on crime laws obviously aren’t working as Tina Fontaine’s murder has tragically proven this week.

A national consensus is forming. If you honestly care about victims of crime half as much as you say then call the inquiry Mr. Harper. It not only the right thing to do for Tina, the 1200 other victims, their families, and future generation of indigenous women; it is your responsibility.

John Rafferty MP

John Rafferty MP
John Rafferty MP Thunder Bay Rainy River
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John Rafferty is the current Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River and a member of the New Democratic Party caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario. John was first elected to serve as MP in the 2008 federal election and was subsequently re-elected on May 2, 2011 with 48.1% of the vote.