Federal program focuses on “root causes” of missing aboriginal women

One of the Conservative government’s key programs on missing and murdered aboriginal women includes a focus on “addressing the root causes,” despite the prime minister’s suggestion that sociology isn’t the right lens to use.

OTTAWA — One of the Conservative government’s key programs on missing and murdered aboriginal women includes a focus on “addressing the root causes,” despite the prime minister’s suggestion that sociology isn’t the right lens to use.

The $5.7-million Aboriginal Community Safety Development Contribution Program was created in 2010 as part of the government’s larger initiative to deal with the issue.

A July 8 draft report evaluating the program was largely positive about the program that works with remote First Nations communities to create collaborative safety plans and train and mobilize people to implement them.

But the report emphasized the views expressed by several communities that it was difficult to make headway without an initial discussion of the root causes of the problem of violence.

“Where these root causes have been more openly discussed and addressed in the mobilization and safety planning processes, community leaders and core committee members have been committed to the issues, willing to take risks in raising these issues, and staff and other community resources … have had the skills and access to resources to take action,” reads the report.

It went on to note that there is scant focus by federal programs on victims of sexual abuse and its link to violence against women.

The document was released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The department’s Aboriginal Corrections Policy Unit is stated as promising that “future workshops will support the communities in discussion more directly the root causes of violence and potential solutions.”

The stated “logic” of the program includes “a focus on systematically identifying and addressing the root causes of victimization.”

A little over a month after the report was delivered, Stephen Harper declared his skepticism in focusing on the sociology behind the violence. He was responding to ongoing calls for a public inquiry into the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

“I think we should not view this as sociological phenomenon. We should view it as crime,” Harper said on Aug. 21.

“It is crime, against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such.”

The Public Safety report indicates that there has been a healthy take-up in the community program: 89 per cent of the communities approached had engaged in the process and others that heard about it through the grapevine were interested.

All of the communities contacted during the review of the program said the year-long funding they got to pay a co-ordinator was too short for them to properly implement their safety plans.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney’s office and the prime minister’s office did not comment on the status of the program’s objectives given the prime minister’s statement.

Blaney has echoed Harper’s framing of the missing and murdered aboriginal women issue as one of law and order.

“As a father, I’m very proud to have supported more than 30 measures to keep our streets safer, including tougher sentencing for murder, sexual assault and kidnapping,” Blaney told the Commons in May.

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