As if refusing to call a public inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women weren’t bad enough, the Harper government is also smothering the valuable work being done by the group initially responsible for bringing attention to this critical issue, Liberal MPs said today.
“Recent news reports are stating that this government is barring the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) from allowing Sisters in Spirit – the group that has spear-headed the research, awareness and advocacy around the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women – to continue its essential work,” said Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville.
“This is part of a months-long campaign this government has been engaged in to squeeze Sisters in Spirit of any and all resources,” added Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic Todd Russell. “Their research into the nearly 600 cases broke new ground in an area that had been previously ignored. The national database it created on these cases became the first of its kind in this country. And now they’re being shut out by Stephen Harper.”
Funding for Sisters in Spirit expired at the end of March 2010, at which time the Conservatives offered NWAC a one-time $500,000 lifeline to keep the project going. However, according to news reports, this extension was conditional on NWAC not using the name Sisters in Spirit, and not doing any research, advocacy or policy development as part of its programming.
“To really take concrete action on this issue, you need ongoing and updated evidence, which is what the Sisters in Spirit database was all about,” said Mr. Russell. “We know that cases of missing women continue to occur. It is shocking that the government is threatening to cut NWAC’s funding should it update its database to reflect this reality.”
It is estimated that if the rate of missing and murdered Aboriginal women was extended to all Canadian women, it would be equivalent to approximately 19,400 missing and murdered women.
“The government’s announcement last week does not specifically address the problem of the disproportionate number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, nor does it provide adequate support to the families and First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. It simply gives more money and power to police while lacking a focus on Aboriginal women,” said Ms. Neville.
“The government must immediately restore funding to research and data collection by Sisters in Spirit and call an independent, public commission of inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women.”