A new Parliamentary committee will be formed, but who will it help?


A motion put forward on Valentine’s Day by Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett will finally see a new Parliamentary committee study the alarming number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. The motion passed unanimously on February 27.

Bennett, who is the Liberal critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, proposed the motion on a day when hundreds of Aboriginal women and their supporters had rallied on Parliament Hill demanding action for the over 600 victims who have not seen justice.

Thousands of protestors across Canada attended similar rallies in solidarity with those in Ottawa.

Bennett said that while she was excited to see the motion pass, it wasn’t surprising as it was put forward one day after Human Rights Watch released its report accusing the RCMP of raping Aboriginal women in northern BC.

“The Conservatives ended up having to do something,” said Bennett. “I hope we can carry out this with respect and in a genuine way that is non-partisan as possible without the usual defensiveness that everything is perfect in the government of Canada or in policing.

“It is clear that a lot of the people who are very close to this issue want an examination of policing. There are too many stories that if a white woman goes missing you have 200 people combing a field, but if an Aboriginal woman is missing people go, well, it was bound to happen or something along those lines because of the vulnerable nature of their lifestyle.”

According to Bennett, a special Parliamentary committee is the best way for the government to address this issue until the opposition has another opportunity to “get rid of this government in 2015.”

If power changes hands, Bennett wants a national inquiry to be set up – something she’s also been demanding.

“I don’t think Canadians realize that murders are solved in this country at 84%. But if the victim is a missing or murdered Aboriginal woman or girl the murder clearance rate drops to 50%,” explained Bennett.

“Whether it is the Pickton investigation or the Highway of Tears or what might be a serial killer in Winnipeg, it is clear that this requires a pan-Canadian examination and I hope that we will be able to come up with some recommendations that can actually put us on a better path.”

For Bridget Tolley, founder of Families of Sisters in Spirit, a group that advocates for the rights of families of murdered and missing Aboriginal women, the time to study these issues has passed.

“This is a very good thing for some people to hear. But since 2004, when Amnesty International came out with the Stolen Sisters Report, there have been so many recommendations from organizations, grassroots groups and everybody else (concerned) who can make a recommendation.

“I just don’t know what is happening with all of these reports. Why don’t they just go back and look at all of the recommendations that have been made, because nothing has ever been done with them. They keep asking us ‘what do you recommend’ and we can make some more recommendations but nobody is listening to them,” said Tolley.

According to Bennett, the special committee will have a year to produce results and will be comprised of members of all three official Parliamentary parties.