By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has again rejected pleas from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo for a national inquiry into the growing number of murdered and missing Indigenous women across the country.
While provincial governments have called on the federal government to strike an inquiry, Harper remains unmoved on the issue.
On Wednesday, Atleo told APTN National News that he raised the issue again during a brief 15 minute meeting with Harper just before Aboriginal Day. According to Atleo said Harper still hasn’t budged on his position since the issue was raised at a much publicized meeting between Harper and a small group of chiefs on January 11, at the peak of IdleNoMore protests.
“He repeated that he doesn’t support the call for an inquiry,” said Atleo. “(Harper) supports the work that is going in the all-party committee and feels strongly on moving on action based on existing reports…it is clear we don’t agree, but I pressed for it again and stated we would continue to do so.”
A special Parliamentary committee was recently created to study the issue and hearings are expected to resume in the fall when MPs return to Ottawa.
The provinces called on the government to create the inquiry during meeting in Winnipeg last April. The meeting included provincial Aboriginal affairs ministers and three premiers who also hold the portfolio.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Harper had already expressed the position publicly in the past.
The idea of a national inquiry was rejected in a draft deputy minister’s memorandum to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, as the federal government prepared its response to another inquiry in British Columbia examining the troubled police investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton.
“It is better to take action now through measures aimed at reducing vulnerability, community-based prevention and stronger law enforcement toolkit rather than expending resources in further inquiries,” said the memo, obtained under the Access to Information Act and marked “confidential.”
“The behaviour of this government is, in my view, in contradiction to the words that have been spoken,” said Atleo. “The way the government behaves toward First Nations people still stands on a foundation that we don’t exist.”
Atleo also said he planned to travel to Tsuu T’ina First Nation Wednesday evening to meet with Alberta First Nation leaders who are dealing with the fallout of devastating floods in the area.
Atleo also planned to tour the devastated communities of Siksika First Nation and Stoney Nakoda First Nation on Thursday.