cbc.ca (© Copyright: (C) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html#Rss)
Updated: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:21:05 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Missing women inquiry tops agenda for premiers, aboriginal leaders



Carol Martin wipes away a tear as she attends a Sisters in Spirit vigil held to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday October 4, 2009. Vigils were held in dozens of communities across Canada to highlight the issue of murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

Carol Martin wipes away a tear as she attends a Sisters in Spirit vigil held to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday October 4, 2009. Vigils were held in dozens of communities across Canada to highlight the issue of murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

Canada's premiers and aboriginal leaders are expected to repeat their call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women following talks in Charlottetown today.

Premiers from 13 provinces and territories are meeting in P.E.I. for the Council of the Federation and are scheduled to hold a news conference with aboriginal leaders at 1 p.m. ET. CBCnews.ca will carry the press conference live.

In Ottawa, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair promised Wednedsay to call a national inquiry within 100 days if the NDP were to form the government following next year's election.

However, there is no sign the federal government is budging from its opposition to holding such an inquiry.

Pressure from premiers and aboriginal leaders for an inquiry has intensified in recent days after 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was found in a river in Winnipeg.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the teen's apparent homicide a "terrible crime," but said it should not be seen as a "sociological phenomenon" that can be solved by an inquiry.

Many premiers disagree, however.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger says the federal government must come to the table.

"The reality is this: It's a problem for the whole country. It's a problem for the whole nation. And it needs a national response. It's not unique to any one province," Selinger said on his way into the meeting Wednesday.

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, chair of this week's meetings, said there may be only two ways for Harper to change his position on this issue.

"I guess there's two ways to change his mind. One would be he has to do that himself. Or two, there's a new prime minister."

'Different from other justice issues'

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said Wednesday morning that while the push continues for Ottawa to hold a federal inquiry, the provinces can do some work in the meantime.

"I would like to see the provinces agree that we can come together we can share best practices and set some specific targets around real action we can take on the issue."

Wall has said any inquiry needs to look at all of the causes, from the justice system, to societal issues, to responsibility among First Nations communities, and why 40 per cent of the violence against aboriginal women comes from spouses and family members.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Ghislain Picard, one of the aboriginal leaders at Wednesday's meeting, said chiefs have clearly told him "the worst thing we can do is stay idle on this issue."

"We are wanting to move on two fronts: one is there definitely needs to be a discussion on a plan of action, what kind of ... immediate measures we can consider, and the presence and the input of provincial and territorial jurisdictions is certainly key," Picard said Tuesday on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. "But as well, we continue to call for an inquiry. I think there are answers that can be found through those means."

Michele Audette, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, is now suggesting a national roundtable instead of an inquiry, to see if the federal government is more open to that idea.

"Why don't we sit down together for real this time, where we can improve those program services or initiatives or create new ones?" she said.

If Ottawa says no to that suggestion, Audette said, it's unacceptable.

"If we're able do an inquiry into the B.C. salmon, it cost a lot of money. If we're able to do an inquiry into what happened with ship in the north in the Arctic, why don't we have it today for the women who are missing, or are dying? There's something wrong."

The premiers will discussion other issues later this week in Charlottetown. On Thursday, they will talk about health care and aging, with a focus on long-term care. On Friday, they turn their attention to trade among the provinces and how current barriers can be lowered or eliminated.

more video