Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 411.
I had the privilege of being the chair of the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women, also known as the special committee for missing and murdered aboriginal women. We heard testimony from witnesses and family members and, at times, it was overwhelming to hear about the tragedies, the grief and the extreme heartache. It would have been impossible to take part in that study and not be moved by the gut-wrenching stories of suffering and grief experienced by the families of aboriginal women. All committee members listened to the evidence, and what we heard was compelling.
Root causes were examined, solid recommendations were made and our action plan was the result. This is the action plan that the Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women tabled in the House on September 15, 2014, which was created based on the recommendations that came out of our committee report.
This Conservative government takes the issue of violence against women very seriously, and I would like to speak to some of the measures we have put in place, as well as the action we have taken to address this very serious issue.
There are three main areas in which the government is taking action that were highlighted in the action plan, again, as a result of the recommendations from the special committee.
First, we are taking action to prevent violence against aboriginal women and girls. Specific actions set out in the action plan include the development of more community safety plans across Canada, including in regions that the RCMP's analysis has identified as having high levels of incidents of violent crime perpetrated against women and girls. There are also projects to break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse by raising awareness and building healthy relationships, as well as projects to engage men and boys, which empower aboriginal women and girls to denounce and prevent violence.
Second, our government is taking action to assist and support the victims of violence. In particular, family and police liaison positions ensure that family members have access to timely information about cases is part of the action plan. There is also specialized assistance for victims and families, and awareness regarding positive relationships in the sharing of information between families and criminal justice professionals.
Third, the action plan highlights our action we are taking to protect aboriginal women and girls, with initiatives such as funding shelters on reserves on an ongoing basis, supporting the creation of a DNA-based missing persons index and continuing to support police investigations through the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains.
The Government of Canada will also continue to work closely with the provinces and territories, police services and the justice system, as well as aboriginal families, communities, and organizations to address this serious and tragic issue.
Thirty new justice and public safety measures to keep Canadians safer have been introduced since 2006. They have not been re-announced. For example, the action plan to which I have been referring makes significant investments to support the creation of the DNA missing persons database, as well as more community safety plans through Public Safety Canada, and better tools and resources for first nations leaders to address the problem itself on reserve. First nations leaders asked for this support at committee. We listened and we acted on it.
Yes, sadly, in Canada, aboriginal women and girls face disproportionate levels of violence. This vulnerability to violence can be associated with a number of socio-economic problems facing their communities, such as poverty, relationship violence and substance abuse. These are some of the root causes that we also looked at in the special committee.
As first responders to many aboriginal communities in Canada, RCMP officers often respond to difficult calls involving violence against aboriginal women, so I would like to take a moment to discuss the role of the RCMP.
The RCMP works collaboratively with other Canadian police services, provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal and non-aboriginal agencies, and the public to address the health and safety of aboriginal women and to investigate and resolve outstanding cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women.
We heard from the RCMP at the committee as well. Since 2001, a number of police task forces have been established in areas of the country where more significant numbers of these cases have happened. Project Devote in Winnipeg, Project E-PANA in northern and central British Columbia, Project EVEN-HANDED in Vancouver, and Project KARE in Edmonton are great examples of RCMP-led multi-agency task forces that diligently investigate cases of homicides and missing persons in Canada. These task forces have been successful in advancing investigations and solving a number of cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The RCMP focuses its operational efforts on preventing and resolving missing persons cases through multi-agency community engagement, victim support, and effective coordination of timely and quality investigations. Its operational policy directs police officers to give operational priority to a missing-person complaint or report and to investigate all cases of missing and murdered persons within its jurisdiction, regardless of sex, ethnicity, background, or lifestyle. One example of a tool the RCMP might use is the national public website canadamissing.ca to inform and seek tips from the public.
In 2013, Bob Paulson, the Commissioner of the RCMP, initiated the compilation of all available police data related to missing and murdered aboriginal women on behalf of the Canadian law enforcement community. Something that was requested, and clearly needed, was a central gathering of evidence and numbers so that we had reliable statistics related to the high incidence of these cases. The result was the national operational overview, which was published in May 2014. This provides the most accurate account to date of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
We now know definitively that missing and murdered aboriginal women are overrepresented vis-à-vis their proportion of the Canadian population. The numbers show that aboriginal women accounted for 16% of female homicides and 11.3% of missing women. This is three to four times higher than the representation of aboriginal women in the Canadian population.
This research enabled the RCMP to identify both key characteristics and key vulnerability factors of the missing and murdered aboriginal women victims. The overview also highlights that the rate of homicide perpetrated by strangers against aboriginal women is low, at 8 %, practically the same as for non-aboriginal women at 7%. This information is guiding the police community in its investigations as well as informing the government and partners in the development of future prevention, intervention, and enforcement policies and initiatives.
Public awareness is very important. We spoke to the witnesses at committee and I have talked to ordinary folks in my riding who are concerned about this issue and have been watching the excellent coverage and assistance the CBC has been providing in identifying cases and raising public awareness. I would like to acknowledge that effort and thank the CBC for that, because public awareness is a very valuable tool. When Canadians understand the severity of a problem, they encourage us to look for solutions, which is exactly what this government has done with this action plan.
I am thankful for the opportunity to talk about the action plan and the three main pillars of the action plan as well as the work we did on the special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women, which was a non-partisan, all-party, comprehensive study that looked into this serious and tragic situation.
We all have a role to play in protecting aboriginal women, and I thank members for the opportunity to speak to this issue today.