Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett is sworn in as Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett is sworn in as Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

BC VIEWS: Missing women inquiry pre-determined

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett's position boils down to blaming racist, indifferent cops

The federal government’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is preparing to get underway in September.

With five commissioners led by B.C. judge Marion Buller and a budget that has swelled by a third to $54 million before it even starts, this inquiry has one big advantage over all the previous studies of Canada’s intractable problems of poverty and violence in aboriginal communities.

In this case, the politicians all agree what the outcome is going to be. They’ve been saying so for months, since the Justin Trudeau government got elected on this and other passionate, if questionable, promises.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, a member of the We Wai Kai Nation on the B.C. coast, a former Crown prosecutor and chair of the B.C. Treaty Commission, announced the terms of reference last week. She stressed that the inquiry will not attempt to retry cold cases, but to examine the “root causes” of the high numbers of missing and murdered women.

Next up was Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, who has no doubt at all what those “root causes” are: racism, sexism and the lingering effects of colonialism. Bennett has been meeting steadily with grieving families since being appointed, and now accepts that racist, indifferent cops are the main “root cause.”

Bennett explained this conclusion from New York in April, while attending a “Women of the World” summit. It’s an “uneven application of justice,” she told The Globe and Mail, a phrase we’ll hear again and again.

“You end up with people who have been told it’s an overdose, or a suicide or an accident,” Bennett said.

RCMP have reported close to 1,200 unsolved cases of murdered or missing indigenous women since 1980, a figure that Bennett scoffs at. What’s her evidence? She’s talked to families, and knows it’s “way more” than that.

One of the previous inquiries was by a United Nations official, James Anaya, in 2014. He noted the alarming statistics of education outcome and violent offences against women, and referred to 660 cases documented by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. He also described being besieged by demands for a national inquiry, as he went through the stacks of studies that have already been done.

“Since 1996,” Anaya wrote in his UN report, “there have been at least 29 official inquiries and reports dealing with aspects of this issue, which have resulted in over 500 recommendations for action.”

As the latest inquiry was being launched, Perry Bellegarde, the current Assembly of First Nations national chief, recited Bennett’s speaking points about the conclusions it will reach.

Bellegarde told CTV the problem is vastly under-reported because “…oh, it’s an accidental death. Oh, it’s a suicide.” Then he called for more money for housing and other programs via the failed Indian Act system.

There are several glaring factors that apparently will not be discussed, because they fall outside the politically correct boundaries of this pre-determined narrative.

One is the even more alarming number of aboriginal men and boys who are victims of violent crime.

Another is the rate of domestic abuse reported by indigenous women, which Statistics Canada estimated this year at about 10 per cent of their population. That’s three times the national average, but it was not mentioned amid the demands for justice at the inquiry.

Another key issue that is forbidden from discussion is the social and economic viability of remote communities. Some of them haven’t been able to maintain clean water and safe housing, much less education and employment, despite billions in spending every year.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

North Saanich is giving local businesses a break by waving renewal fees for 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich waives business renewal fees for 2021

The municipality raised $48,000 from businesses licences in 2020

The Sooke school district has filled all spots for their French immersion and nature kinderagarten programs in 2021-2022 school year. Regular kindergarten registration is still open and available. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke school district gets surplus of nature, French immersion kindergarten applications

Not enough room for almost half of nature kindergarten applicants

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as she makes a phone call. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver man calls 911 to report his own stabbing, leading to arrest: police

Officers located the suspect a few blocks away. He was holding a bloody knife.

Most Read