Yesterday, I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a follow up question on missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls:
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question to Senator Dyck’s question.
I have asked this question before. I am a senator from British Columbia. In the last week I have had some very difficult, uncomfortable moments. In my province —
Senator Stratton: Oh, oh.
Senator Jaffer: If you have finished sighing, Senator Stratton, in my province there has been an inquiry on missing fish. That commission cost $25 million. There have been women missing from my province and from other provinces in Western Canada and there is no national inquiry. One must ask, are missing fish more important than missing women?
Senator LeBreton: That is outrageous.
Senator Mercer: You are absolutely right; it is outrageous.
Senator LeBreton: I would have thought better of Senator Jaffer.
This is a serious issue. There are many serious issues facing the government and the citizenry of this country. Again, it is sort of like what the honourable senator is suggesting with regard to the ministers’ participation. She is suggesting that a government — any government — would play one issue against the other. That is irresponsible, and it does not even acknowledge the great work the government has done.
We created the National Centre for Missing Persons; we funded the Girls Action Foundation to support young Aboriginal women; and we are supporting women’s shelters for family violence initiatives. We have worked hard with the provinces and territories. This is a very serious issue. Obviously, it has been an issue that has plagued the country and the governments of various stripes for many years. We take it very seriously. The situation that these women and these families face is horrendous, but to suggest for one moment that elements of the government or elements of other departments of government in some way diminishes the efforts in other areas is ludicrous.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, I would like to go back to a subject addressed earlier in Question Period. The Leader of the Government in the Senate chastised my colleague Senator Jaffer for linking the inquiry of the missing salmon in British Columbia to the missing Aboriginal women. I want to draw the leader’s attention to an article that appears in the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News quoting our colleague Senator Brazeau:
If we can have an inquiry into declining salmon stock in Canada, I’m sure we can do the same for our missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
That is Senator Brazeau, according to the news.
I have called on and supported an inquiry because this would be the right thing to do.
If the minister will not listen to me, would she please, for once, listen to Senator Brazeau?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): The purpose of my comment to Senator Jaffer was that there are many important issues that face the government, and one should not be traded off against the other.
Senator Mercer: It was the right thing to do, Senator Brazeau said, and we agree with him.
Senator LeBreton: There was obviously a need, as a result of public demand, for the Cohen inquiry into the salmon fishery, and there has been a public demand to which the government has responded in a meaningful way regarding this very serious issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
As I answered to questions from Senator Dyck, both Ministers Nicholson and Toews met in Regina at the end of October with their provincial counterparts where this issue was a major topic of discussion.