(In order of appearance: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson refuses to answer questions while in his SUV; RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer refuses to answer questions from APTN; Justice Minister Peter MacKay; Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. APTN/Video)
APTN National News
A grand chief from Alberta wrote to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson Monday requesting he authorize the public release of all data collected by the federal police force as part of its review of 30 years of murdered and missing Indigenous women cases across the country.
Treaty 6 Grand Chief Bernice Martial wrote to Paulson in response to recent claims made by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt that unreleased RCMP data shows Indigenous men are responsible for 70 per cent of the murders of Indigenous women. Valcourt made the statement during a closed-door meeting with three grand chiefs, including Martial, while the minister was in Calgary on March 20.
“We are requesting that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police release the report in its entirety on missing and murdered Indigenous women,” said Martial, in the letter obtained by APTN National News. “As the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations of Alberta, this issue is at the heart of our communities and families who need some answers on their murdered and missing loved ones.”
The RCMP said in a statement last Thursday that it would not be releasing any data based on the “ethnicity” of perpetrators. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer also refused to back Valcourt’s claim that his statistic came from unreleased RCMP information.
Martial said the RCMP needed to release the information to determine whether Valcourt’s statements were true.
“With the recent statements by (Valcourt) stating that 70 per cent of Indigenous men are responsible for the deaths of the approximately 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous we would like to review the report to see if his claims are accurate,” wrote Martial, whose treaty organization represents 25 First Nations. “This issue is close to my heart as I know it has affected so many families within our territory of Treaty 6.”
The RCMP has released only a portion of the information it gathered as part of its missing and murdered Indigenous women project. The federal police force reviewed cases held by about 200 police agencies across the country dating back to 1980.
Valcourt would not stop to answer questions from APTN about the data prior to question period Monday. Inside the House, he faced similar questions on the issue for a third time. Valcourt was not allowed to respond to the issue during question period last Friday.
This time, he answered one of two questions on the subject.
Quebec NDP MP Mylene Freeman, whose riding includes the Mohawk community Kanesatake, demanded during question period that Valcourt apologize for his “unsourced” claim.
“The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs…deeply offended First Nations leaders when he tried to cite an unsourced fact contradicted by the RCMP,” said Freeman. “Instead of attacking Indigenous people, the minister should bring people together to end the violence and finally call a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
Valcourt said he wouldn’t comment on what was said behind closed doors.
“What I got from many people outside of those meetings, and I am talking about chiefs and tribal councils, is that they will indeed use the action plan to address the issues of missing and murdered Aboriginal women,” said Valcourt, during question period.
The minister, however, remained seated when Freeman launched a second question, this time in French which is Valcourt’s mother-tongue.
Referring to a recent appearance on popular Quebec television show Tout le Monde en Parle by Laurie Odjick, whose daughter disappeared from Kitigan Zibi, which sits north of Ottawa in Quebec, Freeman asked the government to call a public inquiry.
“We do not need a national inquiry,” said Susan Truppe, parliamentary secretary for the status of women department. “We are developing more community safety plans on and off reserves, including in regions identified specifically by the RCMP. This action plan will engage men and boys. It will raise awareness to breakinter-generational cycles of violence.”
Paulson on Monday appeared before the Senate committee conducting a pre-study of the Harper government’s proposed anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51. Paulson left the committee meeting through a back door to avoid media and refused to roll down the window of his SUV when APTN caught up with him on the street.
Pfleiderer was also present at the committee hearing, but he refused to comment when approached by an APTN reporter.
“I am the spokesperson,” he said. “Give me a call in the office…I am not giving you a comment.”
Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney also appeared at the Senate hearing.
MacKay told APTN it was his understanding that Valcourt obtained his information from the RCMP, but he hadn’t personally seen the specific 70 per cent number.
“I believe he was referencing material he was given by the RCMP. I wasn’t present at the meeting, I only heard what he has said about it since,” said MacKay. “I am only telling you what he has said about where this information originated.”
Blaney seemed to suggest Valcourt’s number came from an “analysis” of public information.
“The data are up there, anyone who wants to know about the file can download the data and make their own analysis,” said Blaney.