APTN National News
WINNIPEG–Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose admitted Friday only part of the $10 million the government set aside for a strategy to deal with the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women cases would be used specifically for Aboriginal women.
Ambrose said $4 million would go to the RCMP to create a branch to investigate all missing persons. She said the rest of the money would be used for programming targeting violence against Aboriginal women.
“What the RCMP has said is they want people to understand that his is for all missing persons…they want Canadians to know that this is a missing persons unit that will be investigating all missing persons across the country,” said Ambrose, speaking to reporters during a seperate announcement in Winnipeg. “But the way it has been tailored to deal with specifically murdered and missing Aboriginal women is all of the new programming around victims’ services.”
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has backed away from their initial support of the Oct. 29 announcement saying it had little to do with missing or murdered Aboriginal women. They have launched a campaign calling on the government to set aside targeted funding in the next budget to deal specifically with the issue.
The federal cabinet decided last December against continuing to fund NWAC’s Sisters in Spirit project which produced a groundbreaking database detailing almost 600 murdered and missing Aboriginal women cases.
NWAC has said they have been told by officials that any new funding for projects on the issue would come from a program that forbade grant money from being used for research and policy work. Status of Women officials told NWAC they could not use the name Sisters in Spirit or work on the database with the government money.
Ambrose denied NWAC faced any pressure to stop using the name Sisters in Spirit for government funded projects. She said that decision would come from the organization.
“That would be an organizational decision of their own,” said Ambrose. “We’ve always supported the organization and will continue to work with (them).”
Ambrose also said the justice and public safety departments had privacy concerns about the Sisters in Spirit database.
“There are some legal issues that the information that this group has, that just has to be worked out,” said Ambrose.”I think that when you look at any kind of personal information, victim’s information, how it’s treated is important…now we need this information to be able to be used by Public Safety and Justice Canada, they have to do their own due diligence in terms of making sure privacy rights are protected.”
Ambrose said that NWAC would be one of many organizations that would be able to access the remaining funds set aside for programs and services.
“We have victims’ services programming available to women and Aboriginal organizations and support groups across the country, so it’s a multi-pronged approach, supported not only by NWAC themselves…but also the Salvation Army, the Vancouver Police Association, the RCMP, the Victims’ Ombudsman for Canada,” said Ambrose.
Ambrose’s office contacted APTN National News Friday evening and issued a statement to clarify the minister’s comments.
“What is unique about the new … initiative is the opportunity to forge better relationships across Canada between all partners involved in addressing this issue: law enforcement agencies, organizations, governments and the justice system. NWAC is one of these partners,” said the statement.