By: Krista Robinson
If you weren’t one of the 3.6 million to cast your ballot in the advance polls (yay! civic engagement!), on Monday you will need to decide who you want to run this country. Among the myriad of issues circulating your mind – from childcare to immigration, the economy to the environment -. the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls should be a key issue in #elxn42.
By now, most Canadians are aware of the gap that exists and persists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Canada. According to a 2015 UN report, Indigenous women and girls face the risk of a violent death at a rate five times higher than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Between 1980-2012 there have been 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. These statistics do not include cases which are undocumented, which may be a significant number. According to last year’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “…the police have failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances, extreme forms of violence, and have failed to diligently and promptly investigate these acts.” As of November 2013, 105 women remain missing under suspicious circumstances.
A national inquiry has yet to be filed under Canada’s current Conservative government. Moreover, a recent report revealed that many indigenous communities don’t have access to clean water.
Daily VICE sat down with two of our federal party leaders this month for town hall-style interviews at Toronto’s Great Hall. First Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, followed by the Official Opposition leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcair. The issue of MMIW came up multiple times. Host Patrick McGuire, head of content at VICE Canada told the audience that Harper had formally declined their request to participate in an interview. Just today, a last-minute interview with Green Party leader Elizabeth May was posted, albeit it quite a bit shorter than the other two.
Here’s an overview of what all your federal parties have to say about Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and other promises they’ve discussed on Aboriginal issues.
CONSERVATIVE: Stephen Harper
Incumbent PM Stephen Harper opposes a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. However, the Conservative government has allocated $248.5 million over five years to fund the Indigenous labour market, and has pledged $170 million over the next four years for the reconstruction of housing in reserves. If re-elected, an additional $500 million would be used to fund the renovation of Indigenous schools.
In a recent interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Harper said, “… it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest,” when asked about a public inquiry into MMIW.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Harper defended his government’s record on Indigenous affairs in the House of Commons.
LIBERAL: Justin Trudeau
The Liberals have pledged to immediately implement all 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), along with launching a national, public inquiry. They would remove the 2 per cent funding cap on Indigenous programs and invest $2.6 billion in funding for education.
In his interview with VICE, Liberal Party leader Trudeau said, “We need a national, public inquiry into the tragedy that are the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We need to get justice for the victims, we need healing for the families, and we need to ensure that as a society, as a country, that we stop this on-going tragedy. The fact is, you’ll hear from people who say, ‘Well, we already know what the problem is, we don’t need an inquiry to figure that out.’ Well, that’s almost worse. If people think they already know what the problem is, then why haven’t they fixed it? Maybe we need an inquiry to give the political will to people to follow up on.”
NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Tom Mulcair
Within the first 100 days of forming government, the NDP has pledged to launch a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. They would consider implementing the 94 recommendations from the TRC.
In Mulcair’s interview with VICE, he stated, “There’s no issue on which I’ve held more meetings, or spent more time, since becoming leader of the official opposition than those involving our First peoples, our First Nations, Inuit and Metis. The core of the NDP approach is to have a new era in our relations with our First peoples, creating a nation-to-nation approach. That is something we’re going to do at the cabinet level, making sure that every decision of our government respects treaty rights, inherent rights and Canada’s international obligations. It’s unbelievable that in the country in the world with the greatest quantity of fresh, renewable water, our First peoples still don’t have access to clean drinking water.”
Mulcair admitted that despite immediate action, the entire process of equipping all Indigenous communities with clean drinking water and raising the standard of living would take a “maximum of 7-8 years.”
GREEN: Elizabeth May
The Green Party would launch inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women immediately. Leader Elizabeth May would also restore the Kelowna Accord, in turn committing $5.1 billion to Canada’s Indigenous peoples. According to May, the residential school system represents “an attempt at cultural genocide” against our Indigenous peoples that is unacceptable. The Green Party would commit to a “true nation-to-nation dialogue” to prioritize First Nations, Inuit and Metis language and culture.
In an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network earlier this week, May commented on the national inquiry she would implement, “We don’t want to make this an inquiry into the people we’ve lost, we need to stop the violence now and encourage the protection of all women and girls in this country. There’s no greater scandal than the persistent, inadequate conditions of housing, of water, of healthcare, of education of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Canadians.”