RCMP report on missing, murdered Indigenous women needed Public Safety minister’s approval before release: sources

By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
In late February, the RCMP was just about finished its project on missing and murdered Indigenous women and was telling its partners the report would be released at the end of March but first need the minister of Public Safety Canada’s approval, according to multiple sources close to the project.

APTN National News has been told the RCMP met with several members of the Native Women’s Association of Canada on Feb. 20 telling them the report was “98 per cent complete” and the Mounties had uncovered more than 1,000 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

It was during that same meeting a source said that NWAC was told that Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney would have to first approve the report.

Another source has said the RCMP considers the issue to be extremely “political” and that Public Safety would very much be involved in the report’s release.

The report was never released on March 31 and last Wednesday APTN reported the RCMP project had found more than 1,000 cases by having police departments across the country pull their files to help them compile a “solid snapshot” of cases between 1980 and 2012.

The following day RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed to reporters the tally was nearly 1,200 and the report would be released in the coming weeks.

Then late Friday afternoon, the RCMP released a “backgrounder” detailing some of the project’s findings.

The final report has not been released.

APTN also originally reported Public Safety had held up the report’s release, but the RCMP has since denied that in emails.

“This project is run in its entirety from within the RCMP and contrary to your assertion, at no time has there been interference from the government, any department or anybody else,” said RCMP spokeswoman Julie Gagnon.

APTN’s question to the RCMP was not about interference.

The RCMP was asked if it was them or the federal government that withheld the tally from the special Parliamentary committee into violence against Aboriginal women.

The Feb. 20 date is important because it suggests the RCMP had clear data before the committee released its report on March 7, a report the Prime Minister’s Office stripped of a recommendation calling for a national public inquiry into what many say is a crisis.

The PMO also stripped a portion saying the tally of murdered and missing could be four or five times higher than NWAC’s figure of nearly 600, first released in 2010 and later disputed by the RCMP.

APTN then asked the RCMP if the organization had briefed Public Safety on its findings at any time since the project began last year.

Several emails later, Gagnon finally responded: “The RCMP has been conducting the Operational Overview on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women without interference from government. Work is on-going to finalize the report and the RCMP will release the report in the coming weeks.”

NDP Aboriginal critic MP Jean Crowder said she finds it hard to believe, at the very least, Blaney would not have known the tally and feels if the committee had been told it likely would have had a different outcome.

“Absolutely,” Crowder said. “They absolutely should have shared that information. Not only does it highlight the numbers are higher than people thought, but it also highlights that it didn’t get any better.”

APTN asked Blaney’s office if the minister had been briefed on the tally at any time but his spokesman Jean-Christophe de le Rue wouldn’t directly answer and kept repeating that Blaney had never seen the report.

When reminded, multiple times, the question not if Blaney had seen a report, but whether Blaney was briefed on the RCMP project, the answer didn’t change.

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