A national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is urgently needed
Stephen Harper should stop ignoring the facts, take a hard look at the shocking statistics about missing and murdered Indigenous women and call for an immediate national inquiry.
“Stephen Harper’s comments yesterday show his callous disregard for the plight of some of the most marginalized people in our country - Indigenous women,” said NDP Status of Women critic, Niki Ashton (Churchill). “In this time of grief, friends and family of Tina Fontaine needed compassion and leadership. From this prime minister, they got neither.”
A recent RCMP Report indicated that approximately 1,200 Indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered over the last 30 years. Young Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous young women. Despite calls from leaders, Aboriginal groups, Premiers and opposition parties, Stephen Harper has done little to address the disproportionate level of violence faced by Indigenous women.
“What is clear is that we need to get to the root causes, address the disproportionate levels of poverty, end the violence, and ultimately reform the system that enables it. We need to examine the issue and get answers – there must be a national inquiry”, added Ashton.
After leaving thousands of Canadians waiting years to even obtain a Social Security Tribunal hearing, Conservatives have been caught trying to hide information about how broken the Tribunal system really is.
An Access to Information request obtained by Canadian Press revealed that the Social Security Tribunal is no longer tracking the success and failure rates of Canada Pension Plan disability appeals.
“This is a fundamental principle of justice,” said NDP critic for Employment and Social Development Jinny Sims (Newton – North Delta). “First, the Tribunal refused to publish all its decisions and now they’re trying to hide how many people are losing their appeals.”
Information previously obtained by the NDP reveals that the Social Security Tribunal is not tracking wait times either, even though the number of Canadians waiting for a hearing is in the thousands. The Tribunal revealed in a memo to the Minister that they did not intend to eliminate the backlog before 2017, at the earliest.
“The Conservatives have completely broken the appeals system and its citizens who are paying the price,” added Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert), NDP Deputy critic for Employment and Social Development. “These are unemployed people, persons with disabilities, and seniors who have no income and need to pay their bills and buy their groceries. They can’t be asked just to wait years for the government to get its act together.”
A new report today from Statistics Canada shows that Employment Insurance claims are up by over 10%, but the number of people receiving benefits fell by over 2,500. More evidence of how Canadians are paying the price for Conservative cuts to EI.
“Conservatives have cut EI and changed the rules to take away benefits and reduce eligibility – and now thousands of people are finding that help isn’t there for them when they need it,” said Robert Aubin (Trois-Rivières), NDP critic for Employment Insurance.
Since devastating Conservative government cuts to EI were implemented, fewer than 4 in 10 unemployed Canadians now qualify for benefits. Over the last year, the number of Canadians receiving help has dropped 3.3%, even while the number of people applying for EI has risen by 10%.
“Conservatives don’t understand, EI is funded by premiums from workers and employers, not the government,” added Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth – Cole Harbour), Deputy NDP critic for Employment Insurance.
In an effort to help unite progressive voices across Canada, several New Democrat MPs will be taking part in the 2014 People’s Social Forum in Ottawa, the first ever pan-Canadian social forum.
“It is with great pride that my NDP colleagues and I take part in this event,” said NDP deputy Leader Libby Davies. “Thousands of Canadians from coast to coast to coast have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that underfunding and deregulation have had on their programs and services. We firmly believe that by working together, sustainable economic growth can be achieved without sacrificing the well-being of Canadians and the environment.”
Spearheaded by Quebec and First Nations social movements, the goal of 2014 People’s Social Forum is to offer Canadians from all over the opportunity to discuss how best to take on Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and their austerity agenda. The event is being held from August 21 to 24 at the University of Ottawa.
The NDP deputy Leader will be accompanied by MPs Mike Sullivan (York South–Weston), Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre), Alexandre Boulerice (Rosement–La Petite-Patrie) and Dany Morin (Chicoutimi–Le Fjord).
Northerners look for answers as Harper returns for annual photo-op
It’s time again for Stephen Harper’s annual trip to Canada’s North, but after 8 years of Conservative government, Northerners still haven’t seen action on their priorities.
“Stephen Harper comes rolling through town once a year, and the rest of the year, Northerners are left out of the conversation,” said NDP MP Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic).
Affordability and access to housing remain on top of the list of concerns for many people, and the skyrocketing cost of food and fuel has left many families struggling to make ends meet.
Conservatives have also refused to address the impact that climate change has on Canada’s North. This past summer’s drought resulted in one of the worst forest fire seasons in memory, forcing people out of their homes and likely affecting the caribou migration.
“The Conservative northern strategy has not accomplished what it set out to do – it’s clear it was created with hollow promises as a way of attracting votes, mostly from the South,” said Bevington. “We deserve a partner who will listen and work with Northerners to come up with solutions.”
Conservative health minister Rona Ambrose’s speech this week to the Canadian Medical Association suggests she doesn’t understand the biggest challenges facing Canadian health care. Perhaps it’s because her government helped create them.
Ambrose claimed she was going to talk about challenges facing our health care system, but then evaded any mention of the single largest challenge – her government’s unilateral cut of $36 billion from future health care budgets.
When Conservative cuts are fully implemented, federal spending on health care will have declined to an historic low – just when Canada faces added pressures of caring for an aging population.
- Minister Ambrose was silent on whether she supported Canada Post’s recent announcement that it will require doctors’ notes in order for elderly Canadians and persons living with disabilities to receive mail service at home.
- Like the NDP, the CMA has criticized this announcement as unnecessarily increasing the administrative burden on doctors and taking time away from patient care.
- Minister Ambrose told the CMA, “[F]or policy makers like me, it’s the medical science and data-based evidence that must guide our decisions.”
- Her claim ignores the many ideological decisions her government has made in the field of health care – such as the attempt to cancel Insite; the decision to turn an anti-drug campaign into a partisan tool; or linking future health care funding allocations to GDP, instead of basing health investments on need.
- The Minister admitted the Conservatives’ voluntary approach to disclosing drug shortages is not working and the government is belatedly looking at moving to a mandatory system.
- Just a few months ago, Minister Ambrose voted against the NDP’s Bill C-523, which would have required mandatory disclosure of drug shortages.
- Despite repeated calls from the CMA, CARP and the NDP for a national seniors strategy, the Minister was dismissive, telling reporters she didn’t see the need for one.
- Seniors currently account for nearly half of health care spending in Canada and within 25 years, more than a quarter of Canada’s population will be over 65. Without a strategic approach to providing care, the strain on Canada’s health system will be immense.
Canadians deserve better than Conservative failure on health care leadership.
In an historic speech before the Canadian Medical Association, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair promised that a New Democrat government would restore previous levels of healthcarefunding to the provinces and cancel the Conservatives’ $36 billion in cuts.
“Money alone cannot solve the problems facing our healthcare system. But without money, we won’t solve a thing,” Mulcair declared to members of the CMA this morning.
This was the first time in 147 years that the leader of the Official Opposition was invited to speak before the General Council of the influential association.
“An NDP government would use any budget surplus to cancel the proposed cuts to healthcare,” declared the Leader of the NDP. “Mr. Harper, after giving Canada’s richest corporations $50 billion in tax breaks, don’t you dare take $36 billion out of healthcare,” added Mr. Mulcair.
More than ever, New Democrats are convinced that we need to investigate allegations of intimidation and political interference that continue to emerge in connection with the targeted audits of charities undertaken by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
“Canadians must have complete confidence in the integrity of the CRA and our tax system. However, I fear that the evidence strongly suggests that the Conservative government has been misusing the CRA to target its political opponents,” said NDP National Revenue critic, Murray Rankin (Victoria). “We must clear the air.”
When it was first announced as a measure in Budget 2012, then-Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver touted the initial $8 million Conservative plan to audit charities as cracking down on “environmental and other radical groups,” which he said were working to undermine Canada’s national interest. The special fund earmarked to audit charities’ political activities now totals $13.4 million, established at a time of massive cuts to the CRA.
Conservatives used their majority to hold today’s committee meeting in camera. The committee was released after 30 minutes, with no plans to study the allegations.
Following the discovery of a 15-year-old First Nations girl’s body in a Winnipeg river, New Democrats are again urging the Conservative government to take action and call a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“The murder of Tina Fontaine is a national tragedy,” said NDP Status of Women critic Niki Ashton (Churchill). “There must be justice for this young woman and all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Victims, families and communities deserve answers.”
Tina Fontaine was reported missing on August 9. Recent RCMP findings confirm that Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be victims of violence.
“No human being, let alone a 15-year-old young woman, deserves to die in this way and my heart goes out to her family and community,” said NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Jean Crowder (Nanaimo Cowichan). “It is unconscionable for the Conservatives to continue to ignore the demands for action and an inquiry.”
The conclusions drawn in a Transportation Safety Board (TSB) report into the July 6, 2013 Lac-Mégantic derailment, which caused 47 deaths, was decisive: the government shares part of the blame and must restore measures to monitor railway companies as quickly as possible.
“Conservatives left companies to monitor themselves – an approach that ended in tragedy,” said Transport critic Hoang Mai (Brossard – La Prairie). “It’s time for the government to implement more rigorous oversight to prevent accidents like Lac-Mégantic from happening again.”
The report – published today – clearly states that the self-regulation of railway companies has failed and that better surveillance of railway companies by the federal government is essential.
For 20 years, the TSB has recommended phasing out the DOT-111 tank cars responsible for the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, claiming they were unsafe for petroleum transportation. Now they are calling for increased oversight from Transport Canada and better physical safety measures on trains.
“We need to do all we can to immediately ensure the safety of Canadians,” added Mai. “We urge the Conservative government to implement the recommendations set out in the TSB’s report without delay.”