Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic March 07, 2014 - 8:26 am

MacKay rejects inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women

Nunavut MP heckles Romeo Saganash in question period

Nunavut Sivuniksavut students at a vigil held March 5 on Parliament Hill in support of a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NUNAVUT SIVUNIKSAVUT)
Nunavut Sivuniksavut students at a vigil held March 5 on Parliament Hill in support of a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NUNAVUT SIVUNIKSAVUT)

(Updated March 7, 11:50 a.m.)

Peter MacKay, the federal justice minister, said in the House of Commons March 6 that his government will not call an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.

“With the greatest respect, the biggest mistake that we could make on this issue would be to spend more time studying it,” MacKay said in response to a question from Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou.

New Democratic Party MPs, including Jean Crowder, the opposition aboriginal affairs critic, pressed MacKay for an inquiry following a March 5 vigil on Parliament Hill inspired by the homicide death of Loretta Saunders, an Inuk woman from Labrador.

But MacKay said it’s “well past the time for more studies and inquiries,” while Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq heckled Saganash when he asked his question.

Crowder led off the questioning with a reference to the March 5 vigil.

“We heard from friends, families, and communities of missing and murdered indigenous women. They are asking us for answers and for justice, but also asking for solutions to end the disappearances and murders of indigenous women,” Crowder said.

MacKay called the death of Saunders “an undeniable tragedy for her family and for all.”

But he said the justice system is already taking steps to combat violent crime.

“The individuals involved in this terrible tragedy have been arrested. They are in custody. That is a justice system that works,” he said.

“We are holding offenders more accountable. We are putting more money into initiatives to help defray this type of behaviour in society. We are putting more money into aboriginal justice initiatives on reserves, and the members opposite continually oppose us.”

In response to another question from Churchill MP Niki Ashton, MacKay said “this is well past the time for more studies and inquiries.”

And in a response to a question from Saganash, MacKay said the government already has access to knowledge from studies on violent crime.

“Those studies have told us we need stronger criminal justice initiatives. We need more substantive tools for police to investigate violent crime, to hold offenders accountable. We need more programs directly on-reserve to help with aboriginal justice issues. We need to do more to protect women and girls in this country,” Mackay said

Tweets from MPs said Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq repeatedly yelled “You’re a disgrace” at Saganash when he put his question to MacKay.

“Min. @leonaaglukkaq demeans by repeatedly yelling “UR a disgrace” @RomeoSaganash while he’s asking about murdered & missing indigenous women,” Dan Harris, an NDP member from Toronto, said in a tweet.

Saganash confirmed this in a tweet of his own.

“Yelled it at me more than once while I was asking my question in the House, I think about everyone heard her!” Saganash said.

That provoked many critical tweets, including one from the Aboriginal Circle that said “shame on her, @leonaaglukkaq should be an ally of indigenous ppl, not a Harper trained seal.”

Ashton also referred to the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women in a member’s statement for March 8 International Women’s Day.

“Every rally, vigil, march, and round dance, held in honour of indigenous women, demonstrates that there is no stopping the tide of voices demanding justice,” Ashton said.

A petition launched by Holly Jarrett, a cousin of Loretta Saunders, has attracted more than 60,000 signatures since March 5, when it was put up.

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