A Parliamentary report has sparked renewed anger over Ottawa's refusal to call a national inquiry into missing and slain aboriginal women.
The report by the Conservative-dominated special committee on violence against indigenous women was a year in the making. Critics charged it offers little more than recycled ideas that ignore the demands of aboriginal people.
"This report is appalling," said Churchill NDP MP Niki Ashton. "It does not reflect the demands, the messages brought forward by family members who've lost their loved ones."
Aboriginal leaders, human rights activists and many provincial premiers have backed calls for a national inquiry. It's estimated there are hundreds of cases of missing and slain aboriginal women in Canada dating back to the 1960s -- officially as many as 600 victims.
Ashton and other Opposition MPs blasted the committee's effort and released a minority report that includes calls for a public inquiry and a national action plan to deal with the root causes of violence against indigenous women.
They also demanded any reforms be led by aboriginal women -- and that Ottawa commit substantial new resources to address health, social and safety issues.
The report, titled Invisible Women: A Call to Action, makes 16 recommendations, including a call for a public-awareness strategy on substance abuse and continued support for programs "that allow aboriginal communities to respond to violence."
"The committee's weak recommendations represent an acceptance of the shocking status quo of violence against indigenous women and girls, even by the very people who are supposed to protect them," said Meghan Rhoad, women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said a public inquiry has received broad-based support.
"For the life of me, I can't figure out how this Conservative government thinks that it can't address the issues that Canadians find most important to deal with," he said.
If the government continues to ignore aboriginal concerns, there will likely be more blockades and other public demonstrations, he said.
"I know there's people who are tired of waiting, and they're taking to the streets now," he said.
Nahanni Fontaine, special adviser to the Manitoba government on aboriginal women's issues, said the province is "very disappointed" the Harper government refuses to consider a national public inquiry. She said after a year's work the committee failed to come up with original ideas or identify any specific investments that could be made to improve the safety of indigenous women.
"Nothing new or substantial has come out of this," she said.
The Conservatives insisted they've taken dozens of measures to address violence against aboriginal women since they came to power in 2006.
The Tories recently renewed funding to combat violence against aboriginal women and girls.
"I believe that this report will go further to take action," Tory MP Stella Ambler, chair of the special committee, said in the House of Commons just before the report was tabled.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay echoed those sentiments: "What we don't need now is to stop and talk and study. We need more action."
In its dissenting opinion, the Liberals said the report's recommendations were clearly the work of ministerial offices, since so many of them make reference to existing government programs.
'Status quo' report incites outrage - Winnipeg Free Press (external - login to view)