Senate Liberals taking action in support of a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls

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OTTAWA –The independent Senate Liberal Caucus today released a legal brief arguing for a court challenge which would order the federal government to initiate a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Prepared by Senator Serge Joyal, the brief outlines a series of legal arguments to form the basis for a challenge in the Federal court:

“When the government failed to address its constitutional responsibility towards the life, liberty and security of aboriginal women and girls as recognized in section 7 of the Charter, other institutions in our democratic society can intervene. The court should be invited to address the systemic discrimination that prevents that an end be put to that national tragedy” stated Senator Joyal.

The idea of a legal challenge was one of the conclusions of the independent Senate Liberal Caucus Open Forum that was held on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Since then, the grim statistical outlook of this tragedy was made clear by the May 2014 RCMP report, Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview. The report stated that the number of missing and murdered aboriginal women has now climbed to 1,181.

Coupled with this astounding statistical overview, we continue to hear of more cases of aboriginal women and girls who have disappeared or been murdered. The stories of Loretta Saunders, Tina Fontaine, and, just last week, of Rinelle Harper have brought an all too real and heartbreaking face to this national tragedy.

Immediate action is required to address the terrible reality of these missing and murdered Aboriginal women and to put us on a path of reconciliation and healing.  Piecemeal efforts have not yielded any substantive results; a national commission of inquiry is absolutely needed. With the current government’s insistent refusal to establish a national inquiry, a legal challenge is the only avenue left.

Senator Lillian Dyck, an aboriginal senator from Saskatchewan, said, “All Canadian women, regardless of race, should be treated as equals in the police and judicial system.  Sections 15 and 28 of theCanadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee that all women have an equal right to the protection of the law.  This is clearly not true for Aboriginal females, as documented by the RCMP report; Aboriginal women and girls are three times more likely to be made missing and four times more likely to be murdered than other Canadian women. A national commission of inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women is an essential part of the solution to this shameful and frightening situation.”

Legal proceedings could be initiated with the involvement of a victim or aggrieved party acting as a petitioner, with the assistance of any aboriginal associations, and of associations devoted to the promotion and respect of human rights and freedoms. We additionally call upon lawyers, professors of law, or retired judges to assist in any such proceedings pro bono, and invite the general public to subscribe in paying for the costs involved.

-Liberal Press Release