• NDP MP Saganash forces debate on missing, murdered Aboriginal women
Sep 22, 2014

“The structure and attitudes that permit this violence to continue… must be examined, exposed and addressed"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, speaking in Iqaluit earlier this month. (FILE PHOTO)
Romeo Saganash, the MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, speaking in Iqaluit earlier this month. (FILE PHOTO)

 

Northern Quebec MP Romeo Saganash made an emotional plea in the House of Commons Sept. 19 for a national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.

New Democrat MPs took advantage of their majority in the house to force a debate on the issue, which the Conservative government has said is better left to the country’s justice system to deal with.

“There are systemic causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls,” said Saganash, MP for the riding of Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, Sept. 19 in the House of Commons “The structure and attitudes that permit this violence to continue… must be examined, exposed and addressed. And the only way to do this is through the creation of this national inquiry.”

The NDP have promised, if elected in 2015, to call an inquiry in its first 100 days of governing.

Saganash, a Cree from the Eeyou Itschee region of Quebec, drew on painful family experience to illustrate Canada’s “history of colonialism.”

Sagansh recalled for MPs the story of his brother Jonish, who was sent away to residential school as a five-year-old.

“He never came back,” Saganash said. “Apparently, he died in his first year of residential school.”

But the family didn’t get word about Jonish’s death for another two years; it took another 40 years to find out where the boy had been buried.

When Saganash’s sister took a film of the grave site and later showed it to their mother, Saganash said she cried in a way he had never before seen.

“This is the closest she could get to final closure,” he said. “This is what indigenous families need in this country, that is what they want, that is why they are calling for this national inquiry.”

During the debate, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq defended the Conservative government’s record on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

That includes an action plan released earlier this week, which commits to fund a number of victim support programs as well as a DNA-based missing persons index.

“I’m an aboriginal woman who went to a residential school,” Aglukkaq said Sept. 19. “I came to this House to help aboriginal women.”