Last October, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya visited Canada to see how its First Peoples were faring. Not well, it appears. His report released May 12 highlighted a looming “crisis.”
Citing the “jarring manifestation” of human rights problems that “have reached crisis proportions in many respects” when it came to Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous population, Anaya’s report highlighted a desperate socio-economic reality as well as the need for an inquiry into the “disturbing phenomenon” of missing and murdered women.
Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou and the NDP’s deputy critic for Intergovernmental Aboriginal Affairs, wasn’t surprised by Anaya’s findings, as some of them were things his party has been saying for years.
“I’m glad that Mr. Anaya has joined the thousands and thousands of voices who have been calling for this inquiry. The NDP was the first party in Parliament to call for a national inquiry and we continue to press the government to do this,” said Saganash.
“It seems like the whole world, except for this Conservative government, understands that this national inquiry needs to happen, so I hope they will listen to the well-reasoned advice from experts like Mr. Anaya.”
The same day Saganash was answering questions on the Anaya Report, the RCMP released a report that detailed how between 1980-2013, 1181 Indigenous women went missing or were murdered. Saganash said he was hopeful that the impact of these two reports would sow a seed of change within the Conservative Party, but he wasn’t holding his breath.
Though the Conservatives have said they would much rather see an “evidence into action” approach, Saganash says the Tories are not putting their money where their mouths are.
“This government likes to talk about the things they are doing to address this problem, but the majority of their approach has been to cut and underfund First Nations police services and social services, while refusing to work together with Aboriginal groups on developing solutions. The Justice Minister can’t even provide a single explanation for why these disappearances are happening. So how can they honestly say they are solving a problem when they are refusing to investigate what the causes are?”
Much like Anaya’s recommendations, Saganash said the only way to move forward at this point would be to call for a national public inquiry because it is the only way to find answers and to bring closure and healing to the families and communities.
“This government needs to change its approach of confrontation and start to work with Indigenous governments across the country in true partnership. The history of Canada has proved that you cannot solve the socio-economic issues of Indigenous peoples by dictating to them and force-feeding solutions to our communities,” said Saganash.