Premiers of Canada’s provinces and territories concluded last week their annual gathering, which took place in Charlottetown this year, with an appeal to the federal government for more funding to be made available to provinces for healthcare and infrastructure investments and for a national inquiry to be set up to into the murder and disappearance of First Nations women throughout the country.
A stonewalling Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected both demands.
The reason for the rejection of the first demand is rather understandable: 2015 is an election year and some reserve funds will certainly come in handy to finance the Tory campaign; ads and commercials will have to printed and aired; some flashy investment decisions promising a lot of job creation will need to be announced with pinky pictures of prosperous years under another Stephen Harper tenure being beamed all through the media. So a politician could be, maybe not forgiven, but understood if he decides to allocate a few extra hundreds of millions dollars to a forthcoming election campaign instead of addressing some fundamental social and economic problems; after all, they might be looked after sometime following the election win, maybe.
But the refusal of the prime minister to support the call of premiers and the national leaders of First Nations organizations to open an inquiry into the crimes targeting the First Nations women is neither understandable, nor defensible.
Mr. Harper says the statistics show that the number of crimes targeting First Nations women is not different from those targeting non-First Nations women.
“It is not a social phenomenon,” he says.
According to the prime minister, it is up to RCMP to solve those crimes and it should stay that way.
One would expect a concerned head of government to say: “Yes, by all means, let’s go ahead with a national inquiry, and while we are at that, let’s also investigate crimes targeting non-First Nations women, too. They are all our people and we should dig deep into the causes of these murders and disappearances to ensure that the female citizens of this country, whatever their ethnic origin or background, can feel themselves safe and secure.”
So why doesn’t Mr. Harper come up with such a statement?
There may be a long list of answers to that question.
But what could be said in general is probably that Mr. Harper would not want to be seen as liberal a politician as someone who could defend such a position.
As one can clearly deduce from the statements of not only the prime minister, but also of his long time political ally and Minister of Justice Peter MacKay that the governing Conservative Party is, true to their name, so conservative that they still might not have brought themselves to the 21st century thinking that gender is secondary to being a human.
After his flat out rejection of the demand for a national inquiry into the fate of the murdered or missing First Nations women, one cannot help thinking how sincere Mr. Harper was when he officially apologized to First Nations back in 2008 for the residential schools tragedy. Was it only a ploy to lure First Nations to give the green light for more resource exploitation in their reserves?
But a more interesting question is how the women of this country will vote next year when Mr. Harper and his Conservatives will seek another term in office.