NDP forces debate in House of Commons on murdered and missing aboriginal women

An aboriginal MP delivered a powerful plea Friday for a national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, recalling his own brother’s death as a five-year-old in a residential school 60 years ago.

OTTAWA — An aboriginal MP delivered a powerful plea Friday for a national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, recalling his own brother’s death as a five-year-old in a residential school 60 years ago.

Romeo Saganash, an NDP member from northern Quebec’s Nunavik region, implored the Conservative government to call an inquiry after the New Democrats successfully moved a motion allowing them to raise the issue in the House of Commons.

“The violence that is perpetrated against indigenous women is the violence against the environment today, and the same violence that assaulted parents and grandparents in residential schools,” Saganash told the chamber.

During the debate, Conservative MP Susan Truppe defended the government’s record on murdered and missing aboriginal women. So too did Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, a Nunavut MP.

“I’m an aboriginal woman who went to a residential school,” she said. “I came to this House to help aboriginal women.”

But Saganash’s memories of his mother’s decades of grief over his brother, Jonish, provided the most poignant moments of the unexpected debate.

“He was five years old. He never came back. Apparently, he died the first year he arrived at the residential school,” Saganash said.

Their mother never knew where her son had been buried, Saganash added. Forty years later, his sister learned of the burial spot, filmed it and showed Saganash’s mother the footage.

“The day she saw that video — I had never seen her cry that way. That was closure. That is what we call closure …. This is what indigenous families in this country need. That is what they want. That is why they are calling for this national inquiry.”

The NDP billed Friday’s debate as a victory over a government that was “asleep at the switch,” saying they took advantage of scant Tory attendance after the daily question period to take control of the House agenda.

Conservative MPs who were in the House, such as Bob Zimmer and Ryan Leef, opted to vote with the opposition, later using their Twitter feeds to say they supported the motion that triggered the debate.

“The government is unable to stop us because of our numbers,” NDP House leader Peter Julian said afterward.

“When they realized that we had the majority in the House, they backed off and changed their vote, but you could see the panic on their faces as they ran into the House trying to block the NDP’s attempt to put forward this debate today.”

The Conservatives, however, dismissed the NDP’s version of events.

“The vote had no impact on whether the debate happened,” government House leader Peter Van Loan said in a statement.

“We had no reason to block debate. You will note that Conservative members, including the minister of the environment and the parliamentary secretary for the status of women, actively participated.”

In remarks that earned a rousing standing ovation from his NDP colleagues, Saganash pointed out that aboriginal women are much more likely to fall victim to violence than non-native women. He said an inquiry needs to examine the root causes at play.

“Where is the Canada we used to know, Mr. Speaker, the one that has the history of upholding high standards of human rights and social democratic values in this country?” he said.

“It is no longer here.”

Calls are growing ever louder for a public inquiry into Canada’s hundreds of murdered and missing native women.

An RCMP report released in May found aboriginal women have been much more prone to violent deaths than non-native women in Canada.

The latest federal budget committed $25 million over five years to address crimes against aboriginal women and girls. But the opposition NDP and Liberals have been demanding a sweeping national inquiry.

Just Posted

95-year-old man dies in collision near Three Hills

A 95-year-old man died in a two-vehicle collision near Three Hills Tuesday… Continue reading

Medicine River Wildlife Centre does not receive provincial grant for new wildlife hospital

The Medicine River Wildlife Centre is $440,000 short for its new wildlife… Continue reading

Leaky Lacombe curling rink roof to be replaced

A 2015 hailstorm is believed to be the reason for the Lacombe… Continue reading

Red Deer College allows PDD students to pursue higher education

Inclusion Alberta accepts applications for non-credit students

WATCH: Alberta’s revenue shortage discussed during event at Red Deer College

Albertans need to be taxed more so public services, like schools and… Continue reading

Mane Event rides into Red Deer

A weekend for the horses comes to Red Deer, as the Westerner… Continue reading

Edmonton retiree robbed of $210K in silver bars police investigating

EDMONTON — Police are hoping that they can provide a silver lining… Continue reading

Cause of plane crash that killed former Alberta premier Jim Prentice to be released

The findings of investigation into the plane crash that killed four set to be released.

MPAA head says theatres will survive rise of streaming sites

LAS VEGAS — Two film industry leaders told theatre owners Tuesday that… Continue reading

Turning vehicles into deadly weapons is easy and cheap, expert says

Preventing people from using vehicles as deadly weapons is a difficult task… Continue reading

These presidential presents are a little peculiar

What kind of gift do you give the leader of the free… Continue reading

A powerful memorial remembers the victims of lynching

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a somber,… Continue reading

Mysterious mummy found in Iran could be father of last shah

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Construction workers in Iran may have unearthed… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month