Even as Canada maintains strong support for United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navaneetham Pillay’s call for an international probe into alleged ‘war crimes’ committed in Sri Lanka, the Government of Prime Minister Stephan Harper remains staunchly opposed to calls by the UN to conduct even a ‘nation-wide domestic inquiry’ into cases of some 1200 aboriginal women and girls who have been murdered or disappeared in Canada during the past 30 years.
A new report compiled by James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, calls on Canada to undertake a “comprehensive, nation-wide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, organized in consultation with indigenous peoples”.
However, the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Harper has brushed aside this call, stating such an inquiry is unnecessary.
Opposition MPs, who have repeatedly called for such an inquiry, have used the findings in the report to press the government to rethink its long-held stance against such an inquiry. “This is not an aboriginal issue, it is not a women’s issue, it is an ongoing Canadian tragedy,” Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett said speaking in the country’s House of Commons according to the Toronto Star.
“Will the prime minister, who claims to be tough on crime, claims to stand up for victims, do the right thing and call a national public inquiry now?” she further said.
However, Justice Minister Peter MacKay brushed aside the demand, saying the government is already acting on the recommendations of past reviews.
But Anaya noted that aboriginal women and girls are disproportionately the victims of violent crime and said there remained a need for a broad investigation into the “disturbing phenomenon” of those murdered and missing.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said this month in a cross-Canada review that the number of reported cases of aboriginal homicides and unresolved cases involving missing women was 1186.
According to statistics, aboriginal women made up 16 percent of all murdered females (1980-2012) and 12 percent of all missing females on record, while comprising only four percent of the female population, according to the RCMP. Endemic poverty, low rates of high-school graduation and high unemployment create conditions in First Nations communities that fuel high levels of crime, domestic violence and addictions.
The RCMP has often been accused of ‘dragging its feet’ and often dismissing concerns of aboriginal families report when a loved one went missing.
Anaya’s report states numerous First Nations leaders in Canada allege that federal funding for primary, secondary and post-secondary education for aboriginal communities was inadequate. Yet, the Canadian government this month offered Nigeria ‘surveillance equipment’ to help track down the 276 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Whiting gets preachy
Meanwhile, Canada’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Shelley Whiting issued a statement last week stating she would boycott the ‘Victory Day’ parade held in Matara today to commemorate the war victory. “Let me be clear: The LTTE was a scourge that brought untold suffering to this island nation and all its people,” she said.
However, five years after the end of the conflict, the time has arrived for Sri Lanka to move past wartime discourse and to start working seriously towards reconciliation, she opined. The Nation sent High Commissioner Whiting several questions with regard to Anaya’s report. However, the High Commission’s media officer was away and as such, the questions could not be forwarded.