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Issue of slain, missing aboriginal women to be studied

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OTTAWA -- A parliamentary committee is close to being struck to try to get some insight into why so many aboriginal women go missing or are murdered in this country.

Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, told the House of Commons Thursday the Conservatives support the idea of creating a committee specifically to look at the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women. It would delve into the root causes.

A motion to create such a committee was introduced Thursday by Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett.

"The fact is, this government is taking concrete action to address the tragic issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women," Findlay said during question period. "Also, we support the special committee to look into the public policy issues."

The move comes a day after a Human Rights Watch report alleging numerous instances of sexual and physical abuse of First Nations women in northern British Columbia at the hands of the RCMP.

It also comes on the inaugural Day of Action in honour of the estimated 600 murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada.

For more than a year, families of victims, aboriginal groups and opposition parties have pressured the federal government to call a national inquiry into the issue but the government has not agreed. Bennett said Thursday she thinks the pressure of the Human Rights Watch report may be behind the government's support of this motion.

Bennett said she was pleased the government will at least take this step, although it won't and shouldn't replace a full national inquiry.

"We will never have the resources or expertise or capacity to do what a national inquiry would do," said Bennett. "But we can begin to look at root causes and why justice is not being done." Bennett said, for example, that it is unacceptable that 83 per cent of murders in Canada are solved by police, but when it is an aboriginal victim, the solve rate drops to just 50 per cent.

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton said the NDP will support the motion but she will still pressure Ottawa to call an inquiry, because that is what the families want. Ashton said a parliamentary committee can ask some questions but it will still be political in nature, as it will be politicians asking the questions and writing any recommendations.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2013 A8

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