Missing and murdered Indigenous women hot topic at Vancouver-East debate

Candidates present at the all-candidates debate on Oct. 14 at Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House. Photo by: Jocelyn Aspa

Photo: Jocelyn Aspa – Candidates present at the all-candidates debate on Oct. 14 at Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House.

Candidates present at the Vancouver-East all candidates meeting on Wednesday were unanimous in making the missing and murdered indigenous women a priority, should they be elected into government on October 19.

In the events leading up to the federal election, the missing and murdered indigenous women topic has largely been avoided in other all-candidates’ discussions.

Last year, prime minister Stephen Harper even commented that the issue “isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest,” and then denied the comments in an interview with Chatelaine. In the same interview, he said “the issue has been studied to death,” and the Conservative government has continued making no promises to the First Nations in its campaign.

“Harper’s Canada is a very white, British Canada and it’s reflected in all of his policies, said Wes Regan, Vancouver-East Green Party candidate.

Pushing for answers

With a significant aboriginal population in East Vancouver, most of its candidates have pledged to put forth a national inquiry for the missing and murdered aboriginal women as part of their campaigns.

“We will begin the national inquiry within the first 100 days of our mandate,” said Jenny Kwan, the Vancouver-East NDP candidate.

With over 1,200 indigenous women missing and/or murdered between 1980 and 2012, 300 of them under Harper’s government, Kwan said there is “systematic racism” going on in the community.

Our federal government says this is a First Nations issue. What we will do in East Vancouver is make this our nation’s issue,” she said.

Regan agreed.

We need to honour the call for an inquiry immediately into the missing and murdered women,” he said. 

Regan added how millions of dollars have been spent on past commissioned inquiries and have “gathered dust.”

We want to see this council of Canadian government form so that all of us can work together and start implementing the findings,” he said.

Alex Millar, Vancouver-East Independent, agreed an inquiry should be made, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

“It’s not just aboriginals, it’s people of all races,” he said.

Peter Marcus, Vancouver-East Communist Part candidate, said the current federal government is not instituting an investigation or an inquiry.

“This is not just an injustice, this is actually criminal,” he said.

But whose job is it

Millar said he believes it should be the job of the RCMP, and that if they’re not doing their job, it needs to be investigated.

Do we not trust the RCMP? Do they need to be fired? Do they need to be shaken up? I don’t know,” he said.

Anne Jamieson, the Vancouver-East Marxist-Leninist candidate, said she’d like to see the First Nations community have “self determination” and wanted to put forth the question of regional development under that framework

We should be using natural resources for the basis of restoring natural manufacturing using the natural resources for that and training with nations on the basis of mutual benefit,” she said. “This would be a tremendous step towards empowering everybody.”

Moving forward

Kwan said Canada’s colonialism has resulted in a number of the murders in the aboriginal community.

We need to get to the bottom of this and we need to get to the healing process and break the cycle of violence,” she said.

Regan said listening to what happens in the community is important.

“We need to listen to communities because they know best what happens on the ground on a daily basis,” he said. 

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