Details and funding were launched for the national public inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on Aug. 3.
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod, who is also the official Opposition Critic for Indigenous Affairs, was in Gatineau, Que. for the announcement.
McLeod says during her many years as a nurse in rural and Indigenous communities, she witnessed firsthand – and too frequently – the pain and the violence against women and girls.
“The extraordinary number of missing and murdered aboriginal women is an absolute tragedy in Canada. I think we are aware already of some of the significant causes, so … there are a number of things I believe could come out of the inquiry.”
The local MP says she hopes the families of the victims are satisfied with the results of the inquiry and that it brings peace and resolution for them.
She also hopes it will provide a broader awareness of this issue to the general population of Canadians.
“As everyone is aware, for a long time our [Conservative] party was not supportive of an inquiry because we felt that it’s a horrific tragedy and it was time to take action; we needed to move forward with some of the measures that we know would make a difference.”
However, McLeod notes the Conservative government was “clearly in the minority” in that position and the current Liberal government expressed its disagreement with before and after its election.
“We are supporting this process. Now, certainly, the budget has gone from $40-million to $53-million, plus additional money for the Justice Department, so we need to be very, very watchful … both in terms of timelines and in terms of the escalation of costs.
“Every dollar you spend on the inquiry is, of course, less money for some of the things that communities can do that are very action-orientated.”
There is a need to take action, but it is important this be prioritized in ways that will make a significant difference in reducing the abuse and violence happening to this country’s women and girls, she adds.
“Most importantly, we have over 40 studies that have been done already with recommendations…. I’m looking for the commission to actually build on those recommendations and put them in a real path to move forward.”
McLeod says one of the things she “fundamentally disagrees with” on the Liberal government’s stance is the direction it wants to go with Canada’s justice system.
“They are very much wanting to move towards lighter sentences.
“I heard from one of the victim’s [families] who was being interviewed and she was saying … these serial abusers are just getting back on the street.”
When her Conservative Party governed the country, it had “a real thrust” toward serious crimes receiving appropriate punishments, she explains.
However, the Opposition MP says her party does support and “gives kudos” to the Liberal government for its inclusion of examining both the child welfare system and root causes in its inquiry plan, as well as a process of supporting families through moving key results into the justice system.
British Columbia’s first female First Nations judge, Marion Buller, was named as chief commissioner of the five-member panel for the inquiry that begins Sept. 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2018.
McLeod notes there have been many unsolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in B.C. from the Highway of Tears, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Pickton murders among others.
“We have a judge with a solid reputation from our province [leading the inquiry], and I think that’s important.”