The Conservatives recently announced how they would spend the $10 million set aside to address violence against aboriginal women. Although this was a welcome change to their long silence on this issue, the result was disappointing. The Conservatives plan to give $4 million from the allocated $10 million to the RCMP to increase their investigative capacity on missing person’s cases in general through the creation of the National Police Support Centre for Missing Persons. Only a portion of the centre’s work, and therefore the money, will go specifically toward cases involving Aboriginal women.
Another disappointment was that, despite the Conservative government’s praise of Sisters in Spirit (SIS), the recent $10 million announcement to address the issue of violence against Aboriginal women left SIS out. The main voice calling for action on how missing women cases are reported and investigated has been excluded. Many fear this means the end of Sisters in Spirit since the government made it very clear that SIS will not receive any more funding for this project.
Sisters in Spirit, a project under the umbrella of the Native Women’s Association of Canada since 2005, led the way in research regarding missing and murdered aboriginal women. Their April 2010 report, “What Their Stories Tell Us”, identified knowledge gaps that hindered the creation of effective policies and programming to address the high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. Problems such as different jurisdictions not communicating as happened with the victims of Robert Pickton, delays in starting missing persons investigations if the woman was Aboriginal or in the sex trade, lack of resources for family members to deal with the aftermath of murder, and not enough investments in anti-violence programs and front-line community workers, were all identified by SIS.
Since SIS didn’t receive any of the $10 million, the research they did may be lost as they cannot get funding from any other government department. The minister needs to make it known how this data will be protected and maintained. Sisters in Spirit is the voice for the most vulnerable in Canadian society. Shutting them down after they demonstrated how we are failing Aboriginal women is another example of Conservative bully tactics, and the common conservative practice of trying to cover up embarrassing truths.