Canada's provincial aboriginal affairs ministers say they now believe a national inquiry is needed into why aboriginal women are seven times more likely to die of violence than other Canadian women. The same ministers last year endorsed only a task force on the issue, but now feel the voice of victims' families must be heard.
Regional and national aboriginal groups are demanding an inquiry to examine police handling of the cases of hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women, and to get at why they are more vulnerable to violence. A national inquiry -- a lengthy and expensive undertaking -- is unlikely, however, to reveal more than has been shown by repeat provincial inquiries, academic or interest group research. That research shows women are at an elevated risk due to high levels of addictions, poverty, family and social dysfunction within their communities and the profound, lingering impact of isolation and colonial policies, including residential schools. The economic dependency on reserves is compounded for women by a dearth of resources for victims of violence and by band policies that favour men's control of property.
Any evidence of sloppy work or of police misconduct in the investigation of crimes against aboriginal women must be investigated, as with the recent allegations of abuse and sexual assault in northern British Columbia. But the price of a protracted inquiry would be better spent on good, responsive resources on reserves for mental health, substance abuse, violence and for adequate shelters. That's where the Harper government must start, most immediately.