OTTAWA – A national inquiry looking into solving the epidemic of violence against aboriginal women would be up and running within 100 days of an NDP government taking office, leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday.
"This is a national shame," he said. "It’s a tragedy."
Mulcair said the statistics are alarming to him when aboriginal women make up four per cent of the female population in Canada but account for 16 per cent of the murders.
"If 1,200 women were murdered or were missing in a city like Ottawa, do you think we’d need the United Nations to tell us to have an inquiry? It would have been held a long time ago."
Mulcair had choice words for Prime Minister Stephen Harper who last week dismissed renewed calls for an inquiry saying the death of a 15-year-old aboriginal teenager in Winnipeg was a crime for the cops to solve, not evidence of a social phenomenon worthy of further study.
"Mr. Harper callously claims these brutal acts should not be seen as a social phenomenon," Mulcair said, in a news conference from the National Press Theatre in Ottawa. "It ignores the fact this violence is indeed systemic."
Mulcair said all the previous studies and reports that have been done have been just a "patchwork" that do not give the whole picture. Indeed, he said, the existence of those very reports, shows why it’s necessary to have a national inquiry to look at the entire picture.
"No one has done all the work to determine the root causes," said Mulcair.
Pressure for a national inquiry was reborn in the wake of the murder of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River Aug. 17, just four weeks after she had been placed into foster care in Winnipeg.
Premiers are meeting with aboriginal leaders in Charlottetown, PEI today in part to try and hash out how an inquiry might proceed. However Mulcair said the premiers can’t do it on their own. The premiers called for a national inquiry last summer and several repeated that call going into the meeting including Manitoba’s Greg Selinger, Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne and Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said three days ago Harper was "out of touch with Canadians" and on the "wrong side of history" by refusing to launch an inquiry.
In May, an RCMP report showed 1,181 aboriginal women were murdered or went missing between 1980 and 2012, including 196 in Manitoba.
Although the roar in favour of an inquiry is loud, Harper is not alone in his opposition to calling one. On Tuesday the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said a national inquiry would only delay actual action to address the underlying issues which make aboriginal women vulnerable to violence. The RCMP report showed aboriginal women are three times as likely as non-aboriginal women to be victims of violence. Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill said it’s known what the issues are – poverty, poor housing, racism among them – and it’s time to get on with dealing with them.