2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 133

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
The Honourable Leo Housakos, Speaker pro tempore

Abduction of Women and Girls

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on April 14, 2014, the world looked on, outraged and heartbroken, as we heard that more than 200 young girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Out of these girls, fewer than 50 have managed to escape. I shudder to think what has happened to the rest of them. It is now one year, 365 days and more, since the girls were abducted.

Sadly, this atrocious act by Boko Haram does not stand alone. In our own nation, over 1,000 Aboriginal females have been taken from under our watch. To date, as known and reported by the RCMP in 2014, over 1,000 Aboriginal Canadian women and girls have gone missing or been murdered. We know as fact that mostly women and girls are trafficked. The women and girls who are most vulnerable come from fragmented socio-economic backgrounds. In Canada and around the world, they are the most vulnerable members of our world. Instead of our lending them the support they need, the women and girls fall prey to the most merciless fates; and we know the trend: They will be targeted simply because they are vulnerable and because they are female. Yet, as a society and as a government, we fail to protect them.

Honourable senators, as the one-year mark of the Nigerian schoolgirls’ kidnapping passes, I’ve been reflecting deeply on that and similar incidents. Though the abduction and kidnapping of women and girls happens mostly in different countries and is executed by different actors, these events are not disconnected. They are not random. We see this happening at home and around the world. We are allowing our most vulnerable members to be targeted, trafficked, abused, used, traded and forgotten. We are failing them. I worry about the message it sends to our children and grandchildren. Being born into vulnerable circumstances should not determine one’s fate in life. Every child should have a fair shot at a life filled with rights — a right to speak their mind, a right to be educated and a right to live with dignity.

Honourable senators, it is our responsibility as legislators to protect these rights. I hope that we are able to expand our moral imaginations and find a sustainable solution for these issues. Let us attempt in Canada and around the world to protect women and girls. That is our collective responsibility. Let us collectively not forget the 200 Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram. They are also our girls.