Tina Fontaine: Aboriginal Teen’s Death Reignites Calls For Inquiry
The death of teenage Tina Fontaine has re-ignited calls for a national public inquiry into the case of nearly 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN), First Nations organizations, rights groups and individuals are demanding action to end the violence, and to address its root causes.
The a 15-year old’s body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg on Sunday. She had only very recently been reported missing. A week ago, the remains of another Aboriginal woman, Samantha Paul, were found in Kamloops, British Columbia.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), a national organization representing Aboriginal women, described Fontaine’s death as “a national disgrace, a national tragedy and a travesty of justice for Aboriginal women.”
“Every week now, we hear of another Aboriginal girl or woman, who has gone missing, to be found brutally murdered. This must stop!” said NWAC President Michèle Audette in a press release. “With the ever increasing number of missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women, there is an obvious need for a National Public Inquiry – nothing else will do.”
NWAC has been relentless in its call for a public inquiry. Early this year, the organization delivered 23,088 signatures from concerned Canadians demanding an independent, adequately-funded inquiry into a nationals crisis that has caught the attention of the United Nations and international human rights organizations.
The Assembly of First Nations, the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, is also demanding “immediate action” and “concrete steps to better ensure the safety and security of Indigenous women and girls in this country.”
“We cannot allow violence to continue, particularly against some of the most vulnerable,” said Chief Ghislain Picard, the leader of the AFN in a statement.
David Langtry, the Acting Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), said Fontaine’s “brutal and senseless murder” reveals “a pattern that has tragically become commonplace.”
Various studies have revealed that, while Aboriginal women comprise only 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, they are three times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women also comprise 11.3 per cent of missing women and 16 per cent of female homicides.
“This is not acceptable in a country like Canada,” said Acting CHRC Chief Commissioner Langtry in a statement. “Tina must not disappear into the oblivion of statistics. We have a duty to ensure she leaves a legacy, and that her legacy is to bring an end to the chronic cycle of violence that rips Aboriginal women and girls from the fabric of family and community at this alarming rate.
“It is time for a full public inquiry into the root causes of so many deaths and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls. It is time for a national action plan to confront this issue.”
AFN Regional Chief Cameron Alexis says the obligation to end the cycle of violence – and pressure the government to act – goes beyond First Nations.
“We encourage everyone to end violence against First Nations women by signing a petition to urge a National Public Commission of Inquiry and by committing oneself to live free of violence,” he said. “Surely First Nations and all Canadians can agree that more must be done to keep our people safe and, wherever possible, off the streets. We must see a commitment to take immediate action and address the root causes.”
Once again, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rebuffed the call for an inquiry.
“I am not sure who else besides the Conservative government doesn’twant a National Inquiry. First Nation leaders and the Premiers of the Provinces in Canada unanimously back this call and the United Nations has called on Canada to support an inquiry. Why are Harper and the Conservatives not listening?” said Ontario regional chief Stan Beardy in a statement.
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