Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Inquiry for Change

With disturbing regularity I read news articles or see photographs of Aboriginal women who have gone missing or who have died through information channels. The latest to grab my attention was Tina Fontaine of Winnipeg. However, even while thinking about this story two other Aboriginal girls were reported missing.

Perhaps more tragic than the death of young Ms. Fontaine, at 15 years of age, was the life that preceded it. Her grisly end was a closing chapter on a difficult life. Though Ms. Fontaine’s story is not unique, including her death, and it is increasingly familiar to Canadians more broadly, and a familiar tale to law enforcement officials and First Nations across Canada.

Advocates and leaders across the country have been calling for an inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. Recently the voices of the Premier of the Northwest Territories and Ontario joined the chorus that the causes of this national tragedy need to be exposed.

While I support a national inquiry into the problems confronting First Nations, Metis and Inuit women I fear we already know a great deal of what an inquiry would find: legacy of colonialism and residential schools, poor education and opportunities, isolation, endemic drug and alcohol abuse, lack of services, ineffective policing, and so on. Regardless of the broad strokes an inquiry may find answers to certain problems. An inquiry launched in 2014 may be better able to dole out responsibility and blame than the ones founded in earlier times.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (CPC – Calgary Southwest) has rejected the calls for an inquiry and instead used the issue to promote the “law and order” legislation his government has passed and intends to pass. This legislation, of course, would do nothing to prevent Ms. Fontaine’s death, the causes for that will be found elsewhere.

Ultimately the fate of marginalized and disadvantaged people should weigh heavily on the conscience of the Canadian public. For all the glorious nature of this rich and wonderful country there are far too many who live in darkness without hope or opportunity. An inquiry will not fix that, but it might awaken the desire to make meaningful change and produce valuable ideas how to make that happen.

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