‘We will … make this hap­pen’

Pre­miers com­mit to com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions af­ter meet­ing with na­tive lead­ers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Canada’s pre­miers sup­port the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions and will act on them with or with­out Ot­tawa’s help, New­found­land and Labrador Premier Paul Davis said Wed­nes­day.

“We will to­gether, jointly, make this hap­pen,’’ Davis told a news con­fer­ence af­ter host­ing pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial lead­ers and the heads of five na­tional na­tive groups in Happy Val­leyGoose Bay, N.L.

Davis said the prov­inces have not only pledged to act on the com­mis­sion’s 94 rec­om­men­da­tions but, in some cases, have al­ready started.

“They’re im­por­tant com­mit­ments that we need to fol­low up on.’’

Oth­er­wise, what Davis de­scribed as the com­mis­sion’s im­por­tant work could be wasted, he said. Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s long­stand­ing ab­sence from first min­is­ters’ meet­ings is a missed chance for col­lab­o­ra­tion, Davis said.

“We all be­lieve that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should be pro­vid­ing that lead­er­ship. In the ab­sence of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, in­stead of just let­ting it sit and wait, we’re go­ing to take those steps.’’

Davis said Man­i­toba will host a sec­ond na­tional round­table on miss­ing and mur­dered abo­rig­i­nal women to fol­low up on last win­ter’s event in Ot­tawa.

The RCMP has re­ported that al­most 1,200 abo­rig­i­nal women have been mur­dered or have van­ished since 1980.

The 2011 Na­tional House­hold Sur­vey sug­gests in­dige­nous women make up 4.3 per cent of Canada’s fe­male pop­u­la­tion.

But po­lice say they’re vic­tims in 16 per cent of fe­male homi­cides and ac­count for 11 per cent of miss­ing women.

The pre­miers made a united push last sum­mer for a public in­quiry into the is­sue but Ot­tawa has re­fused.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials who at­tended the na­tional round­table in Fe­bru­ary said jus­tice in­vest­ments and a five-year, $25-mil­lion plan to re­duce re­lated vi­o­lence are a bet­ter ap­proach.

Dawn Lavell Har­vard, pres­i­dent of the Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada, said she was pleased with such ef­forts de­spite what she called a lack of re­spect from Ot­tawa.

Vi­o­lence against in­dige­nous women and girls is “a grave vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights,’’ Lavell Har­vard told the clos­ing news con­fer­ence. She lashed out at the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for not at­tend­ing Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing.

“It is an in­sult to the mem­o­ries of those women and girls that they’re not here.’’

Lavell Har­vard called it a “slap in the face.’’

Assem­bly of First Na­tions Na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde said he was sat­is­fied that the prov­inces are tak­ing the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion re­port re­leased last month se­ri­ously. It de­scribed as “cul­tural geno­cide’’ the suf­fer­ing borne by gen­er­a­tions of abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren in once manda­tory residential schools. It es­ti­mated more than 6,000 boys and girls, about one in 25, died in the in­sti­tu­tions. Scores of oth­ers en­dured hor­rific phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse.

CP PHOTO

Perry Bel­le­garde, na­tional chief of the Assem­bly of First Na­tions, ad­dresses a news con­fer­ence as Cle­ment Chartier, pres­i­dent of Canada’s Metis Na­tional Coun­cil, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant and New­found­land and Labrador Premier Paul Davis, from left, look on at a meet­ing of Cana­dian pre­miers and na­tional abo­rig­i­nal lead­ers in Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay Wed­nes­day.

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