The United Nations Human Rights Council has recommended that Canada convene a national inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women, and Prime Minister Steven Harper’s representative to the body has rejected it.
Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia and New Zealand are among the countries that called for Canada to conduct such a review, the Canadian Press reported on September 19. They join a growing chorus that includes the provincial premiers en mass, Amnesty International, other branches of the U.N. and many other groups.
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In response to the latest rejection the Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International Canada (both French and English) and the Native Women’s Association of Canada have written an open letter to Harper expressing disappointment and urging him to reconsider. The full text is below.
September 20, 2013
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
We are writing to express our collective and deep concern regarding the commitment of the federal government to end violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
Earlier this year, our organizations applauded the support of all parties in the House of Commons to create the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women to study the critical matter of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and to propose solutions to address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women across the country and report back to the House of Commons by February 2014.
The prorogation of Parliament has meant the dissolution of this committee, and we call on you to ensure that it is fully restored and empowered to resume its work on this matter in an inclusive and comprehensive way, reflecting what has been heard from Indigenous women, organizations and civil society across Canada, to bring forward concrete, measurable and time-bound solutions to effectively end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Current efforts are not enough and we seek clear and unmitigated commitment to taking action. Indigenous communities, organizations, Provinces and Territories are advancing strategies to end violence, but without clearly articulated national goals and coordinated efforts led by the federal government – including a National Public Commission of Inquiry – these initiatives will not fully address the magnitude of response required to prevent and end violence against Indigenous women and girls and bring accountability for the families of those that are missing or murdered.
Canada has tabled its response to the second cycle Universal Period Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where all recommendations to develop a National Action Plan to End Violence, to call a National Public Commission of Inquiry, and to ensure accurate data collection on incidences of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were rejected. This raises serious questions about this government’s intentions to implement recommendations of the Special Committee, and to broader work on ending violence.
We call upon you to provide unequivocal support to ensuring that Indigenous women and girls will have the protection and support needed to be free of violence.
Shawn A-in-chut Atleo National Chief Assembly of First Nations
Dr. Dawn Harvard Interim President Native Women’s Association of Canada
Alex Neve Secretary General Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking)
Béatrice Vaugrante Directrice Générale Amnistie internationale Canada francophone