Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/3/2015 (2402 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Most Canadians understand government moves pretty slowly.
It's the nature of a complex organization with competing interests (political versus administrative) and many different goals. In this context, it is often a good idea to go slow when citizens' money, or welfare, is at stake.
And yet, there are a few instances -- responding to natural disasters, public health threats or terrorist attacks -- when government ramps up the urgency of its response. Events or threats that require something to be done sooner, rather than later.
One has to wonder: Why doesn't the plight of missing and murdered aboriginal women fall into that category?
Against a backdrop of continued violence, Canada has become gridlocked in a debate about whether to hold an inquiry. Although the case for a national inquiry is strong, the federal government has refused. As a result, we have entered a state of political and administrative paralysis.
Case in point: Last week, the first ever national roundtable on the issue was convened in Ottawa. Premier Greg Selinger took time from fighting for his job to join Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and a host of other interested parties -- activists, academics, bureaucrats, families of aboriginal women who have been victims of violence -- to talk about solutions.
No other premiers could attend, but two federal cabinet ministers, Indian Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch, participated.
This meeting wasn't to find solutions; instead, it was a gathering to talk about the process of finding solutions. In fact, other than an as-yet unfunded national awareness campaign, its major accomplishment was an agreement to meet again in one year.
The roundtable proved the demands for an inquiry, justified as they are, has paralyzed the debate about missing and murdered aboriginal women.
There are many good arguments for holding such an inquiry. We need more data on how and where aboriginal women are encountering violence. We need to compare case files, find common threads and connect dots. We also need to examine social and economic programs to see what has helped aboriginal women escape violent contexts, and what hasn't.
However, as persuasive as the case is for an inquiry, it has not moved the federal government. Consider that Valcourt and Leitch refused to appear with aboriginal leaders and the premiers at the concluding roundtable news conference. Instead, in a blindingly obvious piece of political symbolism, the ministers opted to do their own media availability at a hotel across the street.
It seems fairly obvious the Conservatives have no appetite for the creation of an inquiry that would give aboriginal people the opportunity to complain about how they have been treated at the hands of the federal government.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tried to limit the debate to the ravages of domestic violence. He has rejected the argument broader sociological causes are at work here, both in violence against aboriginal women and in the woeful state response to finding the missing and prosecuting those responsible for the murdered.
At this stage, only a change in government will improve the likelihood of an inquiry ever happening.
Can anything be done in the interim? Without abandoning demands for an inquiry, aboriginal leaders and those who support them could seek the creation of a rapid-response agency to attack the problem with the speed and best practices of an emergency response agency.
Bring together the foremost academics, bureaucrats and policing experts into a multidisciplinary team that could vet existing data, study various programs and initiatives, and devise immediate measures that could be taken to safeguard aboriginal women.
This could include a thorough forensic analysis of known cases of violence against aboriginal women, including those who simply disappeared into thin air. A rapid-response body could design a public-awareness campaign aimed at likely perpetrators and victims alike.
It would be essential the federal and provincial governments commit to funding consensus initiatives from this emergency-response body. Some of the recommendations on socio-economic conditions may be too big or complex to justify a rapid response. An emergency-response body would not replace the need for an inquiry. It would, however, provide immediate help for an immediate threat.
The catch is, to make this approach effective, it must be co-ordinated by the federal government. Only Ottawa has the political reach and influence to get everyone on the same page.
Those calling for a national inquiry believe there is an epidemic of violence against aboriginal women. If that's true, and everything we know to date supports that conclusion, then we need a response that is commensurate with the size and nature of the problem.
In the end, an emergency requires nothing less than an emergency response.
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.