Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harper rejects inquiry demand

Calls death a crime, not sociological issue

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PRIME Minister Stephen Harper has rejected suggestions the death of a 15-year-old native girl in Winnipeg is a sign of an epidemic of violence against aboriginal women and girls that requires a public inqury.

Harper issued condolences to Tina Fontaine's family and friends but stuck to his position there is no need for a national inquiry into the large number of aboriginal women who go missing or are slain in Canada.

"This is a terrible crime," Harper said during a stop on his annual Arctic tour. "Clearly a crime but first and foremost, it is a crime. And the most important thing is to make sure we have a thorough police investigation."

"I think we should not view this as a sociological phenomenon," he said.

Fontaine was in a temporary foster home in Winnipeg when she went missing Aug. 8. Her body, wrapped in plastic, was discovered in the Red River Sunday.

She is the latest on a long list of slain aboriginal females in the last half century -- more than 800 nationally and more than 100 in Manitoba since 1961.

Harper doesn't believe there is a need for an inquiry.

"There has been very fulsome study of this particular, of these particular things," Harper said. "They're not all one. They're not all one phenomenon."

Premiers, opposition parties, First Nations advocates, chiefs, academics and even the United Nations have urged Ottawa to call a national inquiry for years. They say an inquiry might uncover issues that make aboriginal woman more prone to being victims of violence than non-aboriginal women.

Premiers are expected to discuss the issue again next week at their annual meeting in P.E.I.

The Conservative government has pushed its self-described tough-on-crime agenda.

"We're also making, as you know, some additional investments to try and prevent some of these situations. But as I say, I think we should view it as crime. It is crime against innocent people and it needs to be addressed as such. We brought in laws across this country that I think are having more effect in terms of crimes of violence against not just aboriginal women, but women and persons more generally. And we remain committed to that course of action."

 

--with files from Oliver Sachau, Shannon Sampert

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2014 A3

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Updated on Friday, August 22, 2014 at 6:58 AM CDT: adds tweet

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