09.01.2014 08:49 AM

In Tuesday’s Sun: why Kathleen Wynne should be Prime Minister

So, 1,200 of your family, friends and neighbours are murdered, or go missing. Would you be upset?

How about this: the murders and the disappearances have been going on, unchecked, since 1980. Is that upsetting?

No? Then, let’s say you go to Ottawa for help, and they shrug and refuse to do anything.

Upset yet?

At this point in the column, you’ve likely figured out that the 1,200 missing or murdered people aren’t your family, friends and neighbours. They’re aboriginal women and girls.

Right about now, therefore, you are perhaps performing the calculus of the missing and murdered indigenous women issue, an issue that now has its own online hashtag, #MMIW. The calculus goes like this: (a) it makes me sad, but it’s been happening for a long time (b) it’s never really going to stop (c) these women have sort of made themselves victims with their “lifestyles.”

Now, we don’t even have to say, out loud, that if the 1,200 murdered or missing were, say, debutantes or Rotarians or hockey players, nobody would be looking for something else to read in today’s paper. If it had been a bunch of white girls who had been killed or disappeared, there would be no collective societal shrug taking place.

Holy God Almighty, there’d be a hue and a cry like none this nation had ever seen. You’d have mild-mannered suburbanites storming Parliament Hill with pitchforks and torches, if we were talking about twenty Midget “A” teams, or the entire population of Tilt Cove, Newf. or Greenwood, B.C.

But it’s aboriginal women. And so, nobody’s enraged, and nobody’s storming Parliament Hill.

Actually, wait. Kathleen Wynne is. And the provincial Premiers – of all partisan stripes – are right behind her.

Wynne, to her great credit, has been raising MMIW, an issue in which there is no political upside, and in which there are even fewer votes. She has been relentless on the issue, demanding an inquiry into what happened to these women, and why, and how we can stop it.

Stephen Harper, hearing her, has shrugged. No judicial inquiry, he said, and some columnists and editorial boards – Andrew Coyne, Tom Walkom, Jeff Simpson the National Post – dutifully lined up behind him. Simpson called it all “posturing.” Walkom said: “don’t need it.” From the Post, the same: “we don’t need a national inquiry.”

It’s true that inquiries sometimes do little, or they do more harm. After Gomery, Somalia and the like, Canadians are weary of self-mandating, self-financing judicial circuses, merrily stomping all over peoples’ constitutional rights. That part is true.

And it may also be true, as Harper says, that hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women isn’t just a sociological problem – it’s a criminal one.

But if Harper is right, then, why not treat MMIW as a criminal matter – that is, the biggest mass-murder and mass-abduction case in Canada’s history? If it’s a crime – and it is – then why not create a special team of RCMP and federal prosecutors to start bringing indictments? They all work for Harper, after all.

But he hasn’t done that. He likely won’t do that. Because, as above, (a) it’s sad (b) it’s not news (c) the victims made, you know, bad choices.

So where do you stand, assuming you’ve made it this far? With Harper or Wynne?

Personally, I’m a proud Dad to a young aboriginal woman, and I can state – without getting into all the details – that the Prime Minister knows of her. I can also state that, on aboriginal issues generally, Stephen Harper – remember his residential schools apology, here – is not nearly as retrograde as some suggest.

But he needs to do something, and not just shrug. He has the power to do something, and should use that power. For a judicial inquiry, or a police probe.

And, until he does, “Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne” is sounding better and better to not a few of us.


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    JH says:

    I’d be good with giving the money for the proposed inquiry to a special RCMP unit, designed to investigate all missing and murdered citizens period. $70 million recently in BC & $90 million federally by the Liberals in ’96’ were spent on the last two aboriiginal inquiries and to the best of my knowledge, both reports are gathering dust on a shelf someplace and nothing has changed. Another inquiry will solve nothing, except to enrich, Lawyers, experts, and staff travelling the country on the taxpayers wallet. Wynne and the premiers are poseurs, as they simply chased the latest flavour of the month, in their continuing battle to garner headlines and photo-ops by fighting with the feds, so as to impress the voters at home. It’s been the same old, same old forever. In fact, it was quite funny to hear Soloman’s Power Panel Friday night admit they had been avidly reading press reports of the premier’s gathering only to realize they were actually from years gone by. These premiers, like every politician, are simply gaming the system and us. Better we should put money and resources into tools for the professionals, than give it to the hangers-on (google pigs – troughs) of these nonentitys to waste on a cross country rodeo that will accomplish nothing.

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    debs says:

    Its ridiculous beyond reason that more isnt done, however perhaps if the FN would allow, the Govt could put money into helping young woman, Mentoring? Giving them avenues to take, that dont put them at risk. I totally agree that this situation needs to be dealt with and good for Wynne but I wonder instead of more inquiries( and reports that are damming, or invasive at the least) would it be better to spend the money on the young girls and help them achieve safety, and a decent chance for the future. Perhaps more women shelters, some counsellors, some better educational styles that would fit the dynamic(this is me brainstorming).
    but the reality is people trooping over, raking the ashes, writing report after report that will be ignored, and pissing off the FN’s people with their cold authorative demeaning reports, we need a more compassionate approach. Millions of dollars could be spent on job creation for white social workers who dont give a shit, and with an endless bureacracy they need to feed…..or….millions of dollars can be spent pulling the most at risk folks out of poverty and into a better life where choices can be made that dont allow them to be exploited.
    I know that Harper wont sanction either, and if this were white woman missing he still might turn a blind eye, as he really can be an asshole that way:P

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      david ray says:

      “I have seen the enemy and it is us”
      – Pogo

      As long as we have a system that elects people to take our money and then use it to beat us, shame us, rob and lie to us with impunity while we beg them not to will never act in our best interests. Until we devise a system that blocks, sanctions or stops immediately any payment of monies to those who will not act for us then we will continue to suffer the fools we do.

      I have looked
      can’t find many
      that really care
      enough to change
      stop the pain
      that’s what i see in the world where
      I was born.

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    Reality.Bites says:

    So you think she should be PM (I agree), even though you didn’t think she should be Liberal leader or, once she won that, premier? You weren’t especially nice about it either.

    The OLP made the correct choice in choosing Wynne.

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    Al in Cranbrook says:

    From the Winnipeg Free Press, a list of 40 studies already on the books…


    Maybe if we launched 10 inquiries/commissions/studies all at once we could really get something accomplished, and save a lot of time, too!


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    Greg Vezina says:

    I would vote for Harper 1,000 times before I cast a single vote for WYNNE and I cnanot stand Harper. The only people who benefit by WYNNE getting a majority are the Liberal party insiders that got $2 Billion worth of 20 year Green Subsidies and foreign companies like SAMSUNG who got $6 Billion, while all Ontario based clean tech and green energy initiatives that do not have friends in the Liberal party went out of business.

    Too little too late #KathleenWynne. The Western Provinces will not let Ontario have their petroleum resources at deep discounts, nor will Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces give away their electricity at lower costs. When Quebec is building 1,500 MTD ammonia plants that run on Alberta natural gas to be used by Quebec to replace all of their NH3 which is imported, what is in it for them to deal with Ontario? Likewise why would Western Canada provide Ontario with cheap energy when they can make much more money selling it to China and the USA? That is why Ontario will pay almost 9 cents per kw for power from our refurbished nuclear reactors, because we cannot buy electricity from Quebec for 2-3 cents per kw any longer. And YET the geniuses in the Premiers office and at OPG paid Quebec and other jurisdictions $1.2 Billion last year to take our excess power, much of it subsidized ‘Green’ energy with 20 year contracts owned by Liberal Party insiders who got the first connections to the grid. And what should Ontario have done instead? Convert it into $4 Billion worth of locally produced ammonia that could have replaced all the NH3 we import and the excess could have been used by our farmers for half priced fuel to replace imported diesel. The bonus being that after a decade or so of this type of strategy, we would have tens of billions in new plants and investments and hundreds of thousands of 20-25 year high paying jobs and half price electricity, fuel and fertilizer produced locally, instead of just BLOWING the money needlessly. The only national energy strategy the other provinces really want with Ontario is the sucking sound of hundreds of $Billions of dollars being drained out of its economy to purchase energy, fuel and fertilizer, to be re-invested a few years later buying everything in it at a few cents on the dollar. GET OUT OF ONTARIO WHILE YOU CAN. http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/12/02/ontarios-power-trip-province-lost-1-2-billion-this-year-exporting-power/

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      Sylvia Marshall says:

      Well said!

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      Michael says:

      You’ll excuse us if we take your criticism with a large grain of salt.

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    Greg Vezina says:

    McGuinty government changed green energy rules to benefit Liberal-linked firms, court filing charges.

    Not only will we pay almost $10 Billion to Liberal party insiders and South Korea’s SAMSUNG, we have lost almost $10 Billion in WTO and NAFTA trade claims with Hundreds of $billions more to come because to these corrupt Liberals, who should be in jail for being criminals. Please sue me so I can get all these facts before a court, which would likely issued arrest warrants for these criminals.

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      smelter rat says:

      Greg, NAFTA and WTO agreements are federal.

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      Dave Kurgen says:

      So Greg by your admission, since you won’t talk about the subject of the Trail of Tears which is the subject of this article, I guess you like to endorse the murder of innocent aboriginal females, rather than assisting in prevention of the deaths of our most vulnerable citizens. Thank you for clarifying your racist ignorance.

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    Greg Vezina says:

    Here is the link. http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/06/08/mcguinty-government-changed-green-energy-rules-to-benefit-liberal-linked-firms-court-filing-charges/

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    Duane says:

    Debutantes, Rotarians and hockey players are not getting murdered/kidnapped in mass numbers by their spouses and neighbours, that’s why there’s a difference in policy. We don’t need a public inquiry to determine WHAT is happening to them, we need some sort of intervention/education policy that allows FN communities to treat their women with a different set of standards. Personally, I believe a public inquiry is a waste of time and dollars. I don’t agree with Harper on much, but on this occasion, I’m happy he isn’t wasting our money.

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      que sera sera says:

      @ Duane:

      Stats Canada (2006) reports that over 50% of self-identified North American Indian, Metis,and Inuit live in urban centers as opposed to rural/remote/reserves. And over 37% of those +50% live in five cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto. FN communities are our communities, Duane, for the majority of Canadian indigenous people.

      Not only are some indigenous people debutantes, Rotarians and hockey players, others probably even live next door to debutantes, Rotarians and hockey players and/or are married to debutantes, Rotarians and hockey players.

      We do need some sort of intervention/education policy that encourages Canadian communities to treat all women with a consistent set of standards that promulgates respect, equality and access to all the charter rights and freedoms, including security of person, enjoyed by men. I suspect an impartial inquiry into MMIW will help educate all of us and all of our communities, not just the urban communities home to the majority of indigenous Canadians.

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    que sera sera says:

    Until the Canadian and provincial governments address their own toxic & tainted historical history with aboriginals, their hands are not clean enough to even wave at the protesting citizens.

    The government of Canada has yet to release all documents pertaining to residential school abuses or investigate and charge (where warranted) the perpetrators of child abuse on children warehoused under authority of Canada in Indian residential schools. There is no statute of limitations on child abuse charges. When the government of Canada devalues, trivializes & ignores the legal rights and protections extended to aboriginals, it is no surprise that other lesser entities in society also follow suit.

    This has to be immediately rectified. Until then, the Government of Canada is just blowing smoke pretending aboriginals have any hope of justice in Canada. When the children of an entire segment of Canadian society are still, today, denied the most basic of legal rights extended to all Canadian citizens, what hope is there for justice for aboriginals in Canada? In fact, it could be argued that the Government of Canada’s longstanding pejorative bias towards aboriginals automatically taints any possibility of impartiality in seeking justice for aboriginals.

    When the government of Manitoba launched the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (’88) to investigate the murder & subsequent coverup of Helen Betty Osborne (Nov ’71) in The Pas and the murder of J.J.Harper (Mar ’88) in Winnipeg, two large volumes were published (’91) containing the results of their investigation, along with well thought out recommendations.

    Further, in ’99 Manitoba then established the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission whose mandate was to develop an action plan to implement the recommendations of the AJI. While their report was published in 2001, not a single recommendation has been implemented.

    Perhaps if Manitoba got off its arse and implemented those recommendations from almost 25 years ago, it might have a tiny bit of credibility when it adds its historically tainted & duplicitous voice to calls for justice for aboriginals in Canada.

    The lack of action on the MMIW of Canada is both a shameful and logical result of over 100 years of institutionalized racism and studiously ignored inquiries and inquests gathering dust on the feel-good-shelves of mostly white, male, middle class politicians of all partisan stripes.

    There are many things the federal & provincial governments could take action on regarding the cumulative injustices facing aboriginals in Canada. The fact none of them appear interested in doing so, other than to point fingers at each other & bleat incessantly, is a sad reality. Now a critical mass of outraged citizens is spurring these mostly useless politicians into action, in the hope that something might happen.

    But I highly doubt anything will – particularly when the largest perpetrator of injustice for aboriginals is the governments themselves who, ironically, are supposedly the impartial administrators of justice for all Canadian citizens.

    The governments themselves are in a complete conflict-of-interest position and, consequently, are rendered useless & impotent in addressing justice for aboriginals. Perhaps an impartial third party could do the job that government, and its agents, have so thoroughly, spectacularly, consistently and publicly failed at – including implementing change.

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      smelter rat says:

      It is incorrect to state that none of the recommendations of the AJI have been implemented in Manitoba. The Child Welfare system has been completely revamped, putting total responsibility for Aboriginal and Metis Child welfare matters in the hands of FN and Metis Authorities. That in itself was a HUGE undertaking. Many other initiatives, such as programs to encourage more FN and Metis job training and placements have also been implemented. obviously there is much or to be done, but Manitoba is further along in these matters than most other provinces.

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        que sera sera says:

        smelter, my bad, with apologies – you are quite correct about the devolved jurisdiction of child welfare authorities over indigenous children in Manitoba.

        The “improvements” in the child welfare system are easily overlooked since the deaths of indigenous children, “in care”, appear to have continued unabated. At the risk of committing sociology (even speculatively), perhaps the original colonial template, mandate, training & funding levels are flawed?


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          smelter rat says:

          Possibly, but i’m cautious of reading too much into Freep stories. The fact is that there are more FN and Metis kids in care because they need care. WHY they need care is pretty obvious. HOW to ameliorate the problem….less so.

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            que sera sera says:

            @ smelter:

            The presumption that “there are more FN and Metis kids in care because they need care” rationalized the sixties scoop and, today, is still the hoary shibboleth contaminating most colonial child care systems regardless of which agency holds legal jurisdiction.

            Totally agree about being cautious with media stories. My observations/conclusions arise from decades of first hand personal stories offered to me by, and my experiences with, indigenous friends in remote communities. All factual errors recounting same are mine alone. 😉

            When you suggest “Manitoba is further along in these matters than most other provinces” I would, in turn, suggest it may appear so only because Manitoba is perhaps the prairie province with the farthest to go.


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          Elisabeth Lindsay says:

          Would you prefer that the kids be left in precarious circumstances, que sera sera? I just don`t get this attitude.

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            smelter rat says:

            Exactly. This is the conundrum that CFS workers face daily. Act in the best interests of the child is the mantra, but everyone defines it differently.

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            que sera sera says:

            @ Elisabeth Lindsay

            As demonstrated by many many inquests (at least in Manitoba), “death in care” apparently trumps alive in “precarious circumstances”.

            When the automatic presumption conflates “in care” with “the best interests of the child”, the state too often presides over the death of that child.

            There has to be a better model and a better way, IMHO.


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            smelter rat says:

            que… deaths in care occur for many reasons, and very few of them are homicides. These are tragedies for sure, but are by no means limited to Manitoba.

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            que sera sera says:

            @ smelter rat

            Rather than defending the status quo, smelter rat, I believe we can – and should – do a fuck of a lot better.

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            smelter rat says:

            It’s not like people haven’t been trying to improve the system for decades. What’s your solution?

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            que sera sera says:

            @ smelter rat:

            I have no magic wand, smelter rat……..

            As I mentioned in previous comments I suspect the colonial model needs a complete overhaul – and not from the top down, outside in, but rather from the bottom up, by and with the people with whom it is supposed to serve: in the case of kids in care namely the incapacitated parents, the displaced children, and their extended families.

            When the entire model for government service delivery (ie: Justice, Policing, CFS, Education, etc.) is filtered through over one hundred and fifty years of institutionalized and systemic racism, it’s arguable that the whole mechanism is – by necessity – dysfunctional. The cumulative “results”, along with the AJI, and various other inquiries and inquests, seem to support that observation.

            Whether or not concerns about these disparities will reach enough of a critical mass with the general public to compel meaningful action at the political level, remains to be seen.


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            smelter rat says:

            I agree. But not hopeful of substantive change to that degree in my lifetime.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I can’t understand why thirteen governments can’t come up with substantive answers on this issue. The United States had a first “black” president named Clinton. Meanwhile, we have the first northern prime minister in Harper. And yet this has regretably become like reinventing the wheel…

    Ages ago, I suggested that the Council of the Federation be transformed into an official federal-provincial mechanism. That was followed by a collective yawn in Ottawa.

    Poor Kathleen Wynne. It will take more than her week of mediation courses at Harvard to make a difference.At least she is willing to try. Good on her and her provincial colleagues.

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    Ian turnbull says:

    It is a horrible story and I hope it gets addressed as quickly as possible. I don’t claim to be an expert on the problem however I don’t understand how wasting time and resources on a inquiry does anything other than allow Wynne and the other politicians calling for it to feel good about themselves. These things almost always take too long and get taken over by the loudest groups pandering for whatever is in their self interest.

    If I were Prime Minister (and Harper may have already done this) I would put together a small circle of experts on the problem to advise me on the best approach and use of Federal resources to combat the issue. I would then make decisions and take action. I know this doesn’t play well in on the CBC or Toronto Star but something as horrible as this should not be politicized. Keep the inquiries to things that don’t really matter like sponsored golf balls.

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      smelter rat says:

      Aka the Great White Father approach. That’ll work.

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        Ian turnbull says:

        I thought he was the Prime Minister.

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          Kaspar Juul says:

          Call him Big Daddy

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    Joe Robbie says:

    Hi Warren,

    Thanks for drawing attention to this issue. I did some light internet reading after seeing your post this morning and found shocking information, I must admit. I saw some websites that claim that native women face 8.5x higher murder rates by their significant other than other races in Canada. I also saw one website claiming that in high native population areas like northern Canada the overall murder rate is really high. Why would the government not be doing an inquiry do you think? It seems to me that this would be a “no-brainer” for any government in power. I can’t see Canadians having a problem with spending money on this when the government wastes so much on stupid things. Something is wrong and maybe an inquiry wouldn’t fix this, but at least it would be a first step towards finding a beginning to a solution. We can’t begin to fix a problem without understanding it.

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    Ty says:

    So you like Wynne now? Was it this issue that changed your mind?

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      Warren says:

      I have always liked her.

      But for me, the personal is always the political.

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    sezme says:

    The people who care about this issue but don’t favour an inquiry are the people who don’t believe that governments are able to accomplish anything positive. And they may have a point in that inquiries can certainly lead nowhere.

    But losing all faith in the ability of government to make things better leads us nowhere, if any problem needed the light of widespread public attention shining on it, this is one. Shine a brighter light on it, and figure out better approaches than treating a systemic and tragic problem as a series of police investigations.

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    Stephen says:

    The brutal truth is that aboriginal men are killing aboriginal women at a higher rate than Canadians. Of course that doesn’t fit in with your partisan politics because that means nothing to attack PM Harper on.

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      que sera sera says:

      Please provide a link to the data that informs your comment: “aboriginal men are killing aboriginal women at a higher rate than Canadians”.

      You seem ignorant of the fact that aboriginal men and aboriginal women are “Canadians”.

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        smelter rat says:

        Actually, I know many FN men and women who do not identify themselves as Canadians. They identify with their clan name, ie Anishinabe etc.

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      Kaspar Juul says:

      Are my tax dollars really being wasted on a prime minister lurking in the comments Stephen?

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    davie says:

    We had an ongoing investigation here in BC on Highway of Tears. From comments here, other investigations, inquiries and recommendations have also been done.
    Might there be a way to pull together all that has been done so far, with recommendations, in the next few months, so that we can at least get parties on the record before next year’s federal election?

    All levels of governance have to be involved, each acting in its assigned jurisdiction, but leadership and support from the feds would give us a national focus.

    Small point…I understand that the police have solved quite a few of these crimes. Would it be useful to get after the perpetrators to find out what their attitudes and thinking were, to look for patterns there that we can address?

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    Lyndon Dunkley says:

    Let’s crystal ball this for minute. An investigation gets conducted and after 18 months and $20 million (I’ll never understand how these things are so expensive), we get a sorrowful, naval-gazing tome that will use the term national tragedy 186 times in the first 50 pages. Somewhere around page 73 we will get a brief comment on the elephant in the room, inconvenient truth: the vast majority of these cases involved some combination of known assailants, drugs, alcohol and prostitution. This by no means blames the victim, it just seems naïve not to address the circumstances surrounding a victim’s fall into victimhood.

    After briefing mentioning these issues, the same old recommendations are trotted out: money, education, money, healing circles, money, counseling, money, job training, money. Money is provided but since oversight is racist, it doesn’t all get to the right places and eventually you get Ezra on a reserve, jamming a microphone in some Chief’s face who may have used some of the Indian women money for a new half ton.

    Nothing will really change because the real issue facing these women isn’t that they’re Indians, its that they’re poor. The outlook for poor women in violent domestic circumstances within an environment of substance abuse doesn’t know any color.

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      JH says:

      Right on – you nailed it!

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        Elisabeth Lindsay says:

        Re: how come Inquiries are so expensive – $800.00 per hour lawyers.

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    Steve T says:

    Stephen’s post above nails it. The people who are killing aboriginal women are the same people who are killing non-aboriginal women. Over and over, statistics show that the vast majority of murdered people are killed by acquaintances (family, friends, neighbours, etc..). There was an RCMP report issued in May that indicated 90% of murder victims had a previous relationship with their killer, irrespective of race.

    So, while it may not fit the narrative of a great conspiracy, the bottom line is that any “national inquiry” should focus on all murders. Presumably, the family and friends of murder victims are equally devastated, and all equally deserve answers and preventative measures.

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      smelter rat says:

      Um, except that there aren’t 1200 missing or murdered white women at the moment, which is kind of the point of an inquiry.

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    TrueNorthist says:

    It is very sad that this subject always seems to get reduced to cost. Ask yourself just how much is your daughter worth to you, and why First Nations women are worth so much less?

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    Danny says:

    From Thomas King’s ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ : Probably the most embarrassing aspect of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples affair was the speed with which the report was buried. Alive. Perhaps it fell prey to the vagaries of politics. The Mulroney Conservatives had commissioned the study, but the Chretien Liberals were the party in power when the report was tabled. Or perhaps the reason is not to be found in the intrigue of Partisan politics. Perhaps, as Helen explained to me, Royal Commission reports have become the Canadian Alternative to action.

    If it were not so sad, it would be funny. We are protesting in the streets that we want a Royal Commission. God people, we should be demanding that the problems be fixed. Fixed! And not now, but right now.

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    Rusty P Bucket says:

    The gong show that we know as the First Nation Freeloaders was created by liberal fucktards in the first place.

    So Warren’s answer to the problem his fine feathered friends created – is to put them in charge of solving it. What could possibly go wrong? HAR HAR HAR!

    Go for it Warren! It would serve you and those red carpet baggers right! Question – will you have the integrity to answer for the ensuing rat fuck or will you try to blame THAT on conservatives too?

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      smelter rat says:

      Get a grip, Bozo.

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    Brachina says:

    You support Mulcair has been pushing hard for an inquiry on missing FNs women, and says there would be an inquiry within the first 100 days if he wins the next election.

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    John Boy Blue says:

    She should be in jail with McGunity not Premier and certainly not Prime Minister

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