Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An opposition motion worth supporting on missing and murdered Indigenous women

This motion is to be argued tomorrow in the House of Commons:
Opposition Motion
February 12, 2013 Ms. Bennett (St. Paul's) That the House recognize that a disproportionate number of Indigenous women and girls have suffered violence, gone missing, or been murdered over the past three decades; that the government has a responsibility to provide justice for the victims, healing for the families, and to work with partners to put an end to the violence; and that a special committee be appointed, with the mandate to conduct hearings on 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; that the committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair is from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada, subject to the usual authorization from the House; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee no later than March 28, 2013; that the quorum of the special committee be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least a member of the opposition and of the government party be present; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the Committee report its recommendations to the House no later than February 14, 2014.
This is the kind of issue that all parties should be able to rally around and support. Harper stated this in the House of Commons yesterday:
In terms of the specific issue that the member raises, this is a very strong concern for this government. That is why we have invested additional resources in police enforcement, in investigation and prevention, and we continue to look to ways that we can act.

The murder and abduction of women in this country is completely unacceptable. We will continue to move forward with a vigorous criminal justice agenda to address these problems.
There are at least three reasons why the Conservatives should support the motion. If this is indeed a "very strong concern," and they "continue to look to ways that we can act" a special committee could help carry out Harper's intentions. Second, it would also be a matter of the Parliament of Canada giving national recognition to the issue and it deserves it. Look at the international news today. Third, speaking to the bigger picture, this is a time when his government has been criticized as detached and indeed in abrogation of its duty to consult aboriginal peoples on legislative changes such as the environmental law changes in the recent omnibus budget bills. They should say yes to this to build on the recent national meeting and to continue trying to repair the relationship.