AFN chief disappointed as Canada formally rejects UN call for inquiry into violence against Aboriginal women

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The Harper government has rejected several recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council about conducting a formal review and implementing a national plan to end violence against Aboriginal women in Canada.

The rejection came in a written response to the international agency's Universal Period Review, a sort of of peer review on Canada's human rights record.

Citing 9 of the council's 162 recommendations — from countries as diverse as Iran, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belarus and Indonesia — Canadian officials argued that they already have "numerous measures in place that support the objective of putting an end to all forms of violence against Aboriginal women and girls."

"Canada is strongly committed to taking action with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups to prevent and stop violence against Aboriginal women and girls and there are many [Federal, Provincial and territorial] legislative and administrative measures in place to address this pressing issue.

[Provincial and Territorial] governments have or are creating their own action plans to address violence, including violence against Aboriginal women and girls. There have been a number of inquiries and resulting proposals for improvements over
the years. Canada is taking action to implement concrete solutions to prevent and reduce violence and improve community safety.

In addition, race-based statistics are not recorded in a systematic manner across Canada’s criminal justice system due to operational, methodological, legal and
privacy concerns."

The UN Human Rights Council is just the latest party to call for such a review.

For months, in Canada, opposition parties, First Nations activists, the Assembly of First Nations and even the premiers have urged the Harper government to hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women but to no avail.

The Native Women's Association of Canada claims that they have documented almost 600 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women between in the past two decades.

[ Related: AFN Launches First Nations Food, Nutrition, and Environment Study in Alberta ]

The government's rejection to the latest recommendation -- this time by some in the international community -- has elicited some strong rebukes.

In a statement, AFN Chief Shawn Atleo said that he was disappointed to see the government's written response.

First Nations are deeply concerned about Canada’s rejection of the recommendations by the UN Human Rights Council for a comprehensive, national plan aimed at ending violence against Indigenous women and girls. There is strong support for this action domestically among provincial and territorial leaders and the Canadian public and strong international support, not to mention a multitude of reports and investigations that urge Canada to act.

First Nations continue to call for a national public commission of inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women as well as immediate action including support for women’s shelters, appropriate and sustainable investments in family violence prevention, coordination among police services in data collection and incidence response, services and infrastructure to support First Nation women and children, and development of a National Action Plan to End Violence.

The rejection of such recommendations when Canada is in fact a signatory to important international conventions as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples raises serious questions about the government’s intentions. Such matters will be top of mind during the upcoming visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, who will be in Canada starting October 7. First Nations will redouble their efforts to ensure the Special Rapporteur is given the full truth regarding all issues affecting First Nations.

As someone who’s been engaged in Reconciliation Week activities this week in Vancouver, it is especially clear that words need to be supported by actions, that commitments and declarations need to be accompanied by concrete and concerted efforts in collaboration with First Nations to ensure all of our citizens, including women and girls, are safe.”

[ Related: Do we need a national inquiry into missing or murdered aboriginal women? ]

First Nation policy adviser Ernie Crey says that he lauds the international community's support for a public inquiry and is also disappointed at the Harper government's inaction.

In a recent presentation he made to the AFN, Crey stated that an inquiry could help to identify the nature and extent of the violence and help to guide policy development for First Nations, provincial and federal governments.

"Harper's people keep tripping over themselves when it comes to Aboriginal issues," Crey, whose missing sister's DNA was found on serial killer Willie Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, told Yahoo Canada News.

"They had to be cajoled, urged, and then brow beaten and shamed into endorsing the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"It amounted to an embarrassing step-down for the Conservatives when they finally decided to endorse the Convention. The modus operandi of this government when it comes to Aboriginal issues is to fall back on the three "Ds": deny, dodge, and disputation."

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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