Stella Ambler, MP
Chair, Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women
House of Commons
June 19, 2013
New Democrats, like all members of the Special Committee on Violence Against Aboriginal Women (IWFA), believe in the urgency of addressing the crisis of violence facing First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls. For New Democrats, it remains critical that the Government commit to a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and develop a national action plan to end violence against women. During Canada’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, the creation of IWFA was highlighted by the Government of Canada as an example of how the government is taking action on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
We have significant concerns about the way IWFA is working. We believe that IWFA is not functioning well for two reasons. First, there is a lack of clarity in the process and purpose of the committee, and secondly, IWFA is operating like any other committee, without taking into account the sensitive and special nature of its study. We are still hopeful that committee members will commit to working collaboratively in a non-partisan manner to get the committee on track to identify meaningful solutions and actions for ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls.
Many of our suggested witnesses will not agree to testify before IWFA as they do not trust that the process will result in action. Proposed witnesses report that they are not willing to put themselves through the trauma and heartache of sharing their stories while seeing little will by the government to take meaningful action.
The scope of the IWFA has been narrowed to three themes thus far: “violence and its root causes,” “frontline assistance,” and “preventing violence against Aboriginal women”. While these important themes have been developed, there is no clarity on the value-added process and purpose of IWFA. There is no indication of how this “study” will be different than existing studies and past recommendations on this issue. To build trust with Aboriginal women, and as a matter of good practice, the committee needs an overarching vision of what it is hoping to achieve, guidelines for its processes, and a clear work plan with end goals and timelines We are also concerned that if this special committee continues to operate just like any other Parliamentary committee, the outcomes will not result in meaningful solutions or actions. The committee cannot function in the usual way given the scope and sensitive nature of the crisis. Members of IWFA need to ensure that the committee is culturally sensitive and inclusive. To help guide the committee, the inclusion of Aboriginal voices is essential. We recognize the special status given to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and we hope that the voices of the families, community voices and representatives of Metis and Inuit communities will also have consideration. To help facilitate this participation and engagement, more needs to be done to raise the visibility of the committee and its work.
We believe it is important for the subcommittee to meet well in advance of the Committee resuming its work in September, in order to address these and other concerns. New Democrats will continue to work in good faith to make this Special committee do the best work it can and we look forward to hearing your response.
Libby Davies, MP
Jean Crowder, MP
Niki Ashton, MP
Romeo Saganash, MP