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Harper continues to resist calls for missing aboriginal women inquiry

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women would merely be “another study … in place of action.”

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Stephen Harper is rejecting further calls for a formal federal inquiry into more than 1,100 aboriginal women murdered or gone missing since 1980, saying he's satisfied the matter has been sufficiently studied and prefers that police investigate the underlying crimes.

"We have dozens of reports on this phenomenon, including pretty comprehensive reports from the RCMP, and others, on the nature of the crimes involved," Mr. Harper told The Globe and Mail in a year-end interview this week.

He said an inquiry would merely be "another study … in place of action."

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The Prime Minister has been adamantly opposed to such a probe. His position did not change in May when the RCMP said the number of indigenous females who were murdered or missing was three to four times higher than their proportion of the population. Nor did he waver after 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was discovered in August in Winnipeg's Red River.

Last week, Perry Bellegarde, the recently elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Rinelle Harper, a 16-year-old student from a northern Manitoba reserve who was brutally beaten in Winnipeg, added their voices to the calls for a federal inquiry.

Mr. Bellegarde told The Globe and Mail Wednesday via e-mail that he will persist in calling for a probe "to get to the root causes and systemic problems" of the matter. "We believe most Canadians, indigenous and non-indigenous alike, support an inquiry into this tragedy."

Mr. Harper noted his government has taken action to extend the Canadian Human Rights Act to cover aboriginals on reserves and passed a law enshrining matrimonial property rights on reserves.

He pointed out Conservatives have toughened laws related to violent crime "so that we're able to fight this kind of crime, which as you know has generally been declining in Canada under our watch."

"What we've tried to do in so many areas – and aboriginal policy is no different – is we've tried to make continual, incremental progress and I think we have on a lot of important aboriginal policy issues, including issues of violence and the deprivation of the rights and status of women and girls in those communities."

Of all the women murdered in Canada every year, the proportion of aboriginal victims has been increasing since 1980.

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About the Authors
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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