World Bulletin/News Desk
The Canadian government is under mounting pressure to hold a public inquiry after police unexpectedly revealed last week that more than 1,000 aboriginal women had been murdered in the past few decades.
The number was much higher than past estimates and focused attention on the plight of Canada's 1.4 million aboriginals, many of whom live in poverty, with poor housing, inadequate education and high unemployment.
In March, native activists in southern Ontario blocked the main railway line from Montreal to Toronto as well as a nearby highway to attract attention to the issue of missing and murdered women.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police last week said 1,017 aboriginal women had been murdered between 1980 and 2012. An additional 108 are still missing under suspicious circumstances, with some cases dating back to 1952.
Previous counts had been based largely on news reports and interviews with families, but the RCMP worked with police forces across the country, nearly 300 jurisdictions in all.
Aboriginal women make up 4 percent of Canada's population, but 16 percent of murdered women from 1980 to 2012, according to the RCMP. The RCMP did not say what percentage of the murder victims in Canada were women.
"It is a national shame. It is time for the government to acknowledge the status quo is just not working," said Jean Crowder, a legislator for the official opposition New Democrats.
"Will the government finally call a national inquiry into missing or murdered women and girls?" she asked in the House of Commons this week, maintaining daily calls for a probe.
Activists have protested for years about the high number of murdered or missing aboriginal women and girls across Canada. In 2010, the Native Women's Association of Canada put the number of cases at 582, with some dating back to the 1960s.
Association president Michele Audette said the new numbers made the case for an inquiry even stronger.
"It's obvious now, it's coming from its (the state's) own institution," she said.
The right-leaning Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has funded some research into the problem and pushed to toughen sentences for serious crimes in general, dismisses the call for an inquiry.
"Now is not the time for more studies. Now is the time to take action," Roxanne James, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety, told the House of Commons on May 2.
Some aboriginal leaders have accused the police of laxness, saying they were too slow to tackle an obvious problem.
The RCMP said it is worried by the number of missing and murdered women.
"Violence against Aboriginal women is a societal concern for Canada that goes beyond the law enforcement community," said RCMP spokesman Greg Cox.
The Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for Alberta, Cameron Alexis, said the case for an inquiry had been strong already before the RCMP released its figures.
"I don't see why the prime minister refuses to budge," said Alexis, who is also a retired RCMP officer. "He does not have veto power in this country."Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2014, 15:59