Third reading of Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for violent offences against Aboriginal women)Published on 15 December 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas
Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas:
Honourable senators, over a year ago, Bill S-221 was introduced, and it was an outstanding bill. This bill protects employees in occupations such as transportation and policing by having stricter penalties for offences under the Criminal Code for those that have risky and dangerous jobs while protecting and providing service to the public, such as public transit workers, policemen, and also for the protection of animals. The bill granted that it protects some people, but in my opinion, it did not reach far enough to protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged Canadians, Aboriginal women and girls. I am saying that no man or woman should fear being beaten, sexually assaulted or murdered, whether they are employed or not.
Senator Lillian Dyck’s bill would provide the same consideration for stronger penalties under the Criminal Code when the person who is assaulted is an Aboriginal woman or girl. I am supporting the bill because of the insensitive attitude on the part of the police, media and the public when an Aboriginal woman or girl is sexually assaulted, murdered or missing.
I recently heard an account of an indigenous mother’s story of how she went to the police to report her daughter missing. The daughter had just celebrated her eighteenth birthday, and the comment from the police officer was, “Don’t worry, she’s probably on a week’s drunk and will be back.” It is now eight years later, and she hasn’t returned.
In another recent incident in Ottawa concerning the death of an indigenous woman, the police officer made derogatory remarks about the way she died. The officer was basically given a slap on the hand.
A program that aired in both Canada and the United States featured the Highway of Tears in Canada, where women and girls have been murdered or have gone missing, and despite the fact that most of the murdered or missing women and girls were Aboriginal, the program focused mostly on three non-Aboriginal girls.
Over the past decade, we have been asking for an inquiry into murdered and missing women and girls. The last government refused and said it was not necessary, thereby failing Aboriginal women and girls. That action at that time was deplorable but reflects a lot of the attitude from people who don’t understand the cause and effect of historical cruelty to indigenous people.
Dear colleagues, let’s get collectively outraged and agree that the issue of murdered and missing women and girls has been pushed aside and ignored long enough. It is time to step up as leaders and legislators to assure the safety of Aboriginal women and girls by sending a very strong message to the perpetrators that the murder of our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, daughters and granddaughters is not going to be taken lightly.
I also appeal to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, and the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, to support Senator Lillian Dyck’s private member’s Bill S-215. As my colleague said, this is not an Aboriginal issue only. It is a Canadian issue.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!