APTN National News
OTTAWA--Conservative MPs on the Status of Women committee tried to silence a Manitoba chief when she mentioned the need for a public inquiry into the high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women.
War Lake First Nation Chief Betsy Kennedy was twice cut off by Conservative MPs when she raised the issue of the inquiry while responding to a question from Churchill NDP MP Niki Ashton.
“When they did that, for me, I was angry they wouldn’t listen to a subject that is very important for our communities,” said Kennedy, after her appearance before the committee. “Everywhere across the country our women are out there missing and never found and this is very emotional for us.”
The incident reveals the Conservative government is hyper-sensitive to the issue and wants to stamp it out, said Ashton.
“They are extremely sensitive on this issue, they know a resounding number of people are calling for a national inquiry and it is clear to an increasingly number of Canadians that violence is an immense barrier,” said Ashton.
The Status of Women committee is currently studying the subject of “the economic leadership and prosperity of Canadian women” as well as the barriers that still exist in society.
Kennedy was the only Indigenous woman called to testify before the committee. During her testimony, Kennedy mentioned the violence faced by Indigenous women. During the round of witness questioning by MP committee members, Ashton asked Kennedy about the need for an inquiry.
“Today we heard from the UN rapporteur who is calling for a national inquiry…We know there are women drumming on Parliament Hill,” said Ashton. “Do you believe we need a national inquiry?”
Kennedy said yes.
“Absolutely. It is very hard to lose a child and to lose a loved one,” said Kennedy, who was immediately cut off at the sentence by Calgary Centre Conservative MP Joan Crockatt.
“I am sure we would love to hear what the chief has to say on the topic but it’s not really what the topic of the study is about,” said Crockatt.
APTN National News heard audio of the meeting.
Ashton responded to Crockatt saying that the committee was also studying barriers to women’s economic prosperity and violence poses one for Indigenous women who are more likely to face it than non-Indigenous women, according to statistics.
“It is entirely in relation to this study and frankly we should show respect to the chief by allowing her to answer the question,” said Ashton.
Kennedy then again raised the issue and said women chiefs in Manitoba had asked the men to take up the issue and be more “aggressive” in their support for an inquiry call.
“And we said, ‘What if it was your daughter or any young relative that you’ve lost,’” said Kennedy. “I think if there was an inquiry and to have that in there, maybe there wouldn’t be as many.”
This time it was Vancouver South Conservative MP Wai Young who ran interference touting her credentials as a councillor in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“I am from Vancouver and so the missing and murdered women issue is painful having also been a councillor in the Downtown Eastside for native youth and family,” said Young. “That question was completely disingenuous and not relevant to the study at all.”
Kennedy said in an interview with APTN National News that she would be reporting the incident back to her women’s council.
“Obviously the government is not going to be listening. I think maybe we do this on our own, we set up our own inquiry as to what happened,” said Kennedy.
Ashton said the Conservative’s increasingly aggressive attempts to counter calls for an inquiry makes her want to fight harder.
“Seeing the Conservatives react so disrespectfully is more fuel for me to keep pushing,” said Ashton. “Their disrespect toward a woman chief adds more fuel to my fire.”
Crockatt and Young’s office did not respond to request for comment as of this article’s posting.
James Anaya, the UN rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, released his report on Canada Monday and recommended an inquiry.