APTN National News
OTTAWA–The 2013 federal budget unveiled Thursday contains little in response to ongoing calls for a national inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
While the Harper government dedicated a page in its budget document to address the issue of violence against Aboriginal women, it focuses on trumpeting what the government has already done on the issue.
The government set aside $24 million over the next two years in the budget to continue funding the Family Violence Prevention Program, which funds shelter services and violence prevention programs on-reserve. The federal government set aside $12 million in the last budget for the program and the new money simply keeps the funding at the same level.
The budget document titled, Jobs Grow and Long-Term Prosperity, makes no mention of calls for a national inquiry which was a central plank in Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo’s re-election campaign.
The government, however, claims in its budget document that it is “committed to addressing the problem of violence against women and girls by coordinating federal activities, refocusing ongoing funding and protecting Aboriginal women.”
The budget document then lists a number of past funding items the federal government says shows its commitment to the issue. The list includes the $25 million over five years announced in budget 2010 specifically for dealing with “the high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women,” which included the creation of a national missing persons centre, a missing persons website, amendments to the Criminal Code and enhancing the Canadian police Information Centre to broaden missing persons data.
The federal government has also invested $12 million in new money toward the running of over 40 shelters and violence prevention programs on reserves since 2007, according to the budget document. The budget document claims the federal government has invested more than $54 million on projects dealing with “violence against women and girls.”
The budget also sets aside $11 million in the coming fiscal year for the federal Aboriginal justice strategy, which is designed to help First Nations communities take more control over the administration of low level justice issues in their communities and deal with the often high rates of crime and incarceration that afflicts the Indigenous population.
First Nations policing also received a mention in the budget. On the surface, however, the listed money seems at odds with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews recent announcement that the government would be providing stable funding for First Nations and Inuit policing over five years. The budget document only sets aside $33 million over two years toward First Nation and Inuit policing.
A federal official, speaking on background, said Toews announcement still stands.
The budget also provides $3 million over two years to First Nation police forces toward the hiring of 10 new police officers to fighting contraband tobacco.
Toews also recently announced that the RCMP would be dedicating 50 officers to combat the underground tobacco trade. The government also plans to introduce legislation to impose mandatory minimum sentences on repeat tobacco smugglers.