A new study says the federal government is ignoring dozens of recommendations on how to reduce the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The study, which analyzed 58 others on violence against native women, found most of the reviews spanning two decades agreed on the root causes of that violence.
But Ottawa has largely ignored more than 700 recommendations to address the issue, says the report, which was commissioned by the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women, which includes Amnesty International.
At the same time, the federal government has regularly pointed to “40 studies” that have been done when it has said a national inquiry is not needed.
“Yes, we’ve got all these reports, but we’re not seeing the implementation,” said Kim Stanton, legal director of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. “What is really needed is a state-sponsored, public inquiry in every sense of the word.”
People from across the country are to meet in Ottawa on Friday for a national roundtable on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The RCMP estimates there are about 1,200 aboriginal women who are unaccounted for or have been murdered. Although indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, they account for 16 per cent of female homicides and 11.3 per cent of missing women.
The study says aboriginal women are more likely to live in poverty, in overcrowded homes or on the streets.
“Chronic underfunding of services to help indigenous women cope with these circumstances also contributes to their susceptibility to violence and limited ability to leave violent situations,” wrote authors Pippa Feinstein and Megan Pearce.
“These issues are compounded by an unresponsive justice system that is often unable to accommodate the needs of those most at risk.”
The authors found four reports published in the last three years that recommended a national inquiry. Another four reports — published between 2006 and 2012 — called for a healing fund for victims and their families.
A national inquiry is needed to find out why governments are ignoring the issue, Stanton said.
“If we have over 700 recommendations that clearly tell us what are some of the concrete actions that can be taken to address this issue … then a public inquiry can look at that and say ’Here’s how you go about it.’
“This is a crisis. There are women and girls across the country who are going missing and we shouldn’t be tolerating this enormity in our midst.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the government is taking action. In response to questions from the NDP in the House of Commons Thursday, he said Ottawa is providing more resources for shelters, a national centre for missing persons and investigative tools for police.
“Now is the time for action, not for more NDP studies,” Harper said.
Coola Louis, women’s representative with the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, suggested Harper’s comments are cold comfort to families who have lost loved ones, she said.
“It’s not easy for family members to know that … this is not very high on (Harper’s) radar,” Louis said. “It’s not something that sits well with you if you’ve had a daughter or a sister or an aunt or your mother go missing.
“We have children that are growing up without a full family. Those children and these families deserve justice.”