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first_imgAPTN National News OTTAWA–Opposition MPs pressed the Harper government during question period Thursday to call a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women.Three NDP MPs and one Liberal MP pressed the government on the issue in succession during the tail end of question period.As the MPs were asking their questions, Halifax police issued a statement saying two people had been charged in the murder of Loretta Saunders,26, an Inuk university student whose body was found in New Brunswick Wednesday.Police said Victoria Henneberry, 28, and Blake Leggette, 25, had each been charged with first degree murder.At a news conference, an investigator told reporters that there was planning to this crime. Police said Saunders was killed in her apartment on Feb. 13.Saunders’ body was found in the median of a section of the Trans-Canada highway near Salisbury, NB.Henneberry and Leggette were initially charged with stealing Saunders’ car. The car was located in Harrow, Ont., on Feb. 18.They were living in Saunders’ apartment.St. John’s South-Mount Pearl Liberal MP Ryan Cleary began the round of questioning saying that as elected representatives they had “a duty to act.”  He then called on the government to call a national inquiry.Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch responded saying the government had already taken “concrete action” by promising $25 million toward the issue in the latest budget.That money, however, won’t flow until next year and most of it will be used by the RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, which doesn’t specifically target murdered and missing Indigenous women. The rest of the money is supposed to go for victim family services and violence prevention. The Native Women’s Association of Canada, however, says no one knows where these services exist.Leitch then tried to flip the issue back on Cleary and his party for not supporting the Harper government’s budget.“Why don’t you stand up for Aboriginal women?” said Leitch.Leitch’s tone, however, softened substantially as she faced three more questions from the NDP on the issue, but she still stuck to her talking points.An emotional Halifax NDP MP Meagan Leslie led off the questioning for the NDP on the subject.“Over 800 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing since 1990. It is time for us to acknowledge this crisis,” said Leslie. “Will the government establish a national action plan on violence against women?”Leitch said the government had already responded to the issue and referred to the $8.1 million the government had committed in the last budget to create a DNA-based missing persons Index which would be part of the missing persons centre. That money won’t flow until 2016, which is after the next federal election.“Our government has taken action,” said Leitch. “I encourage the opposition to join us in that action.”The NDP’s Aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder then took up the questioning. She mentioned that Saunders, a university student, was working on writing a thesis exploring the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women.“Will the government continue the work of Loretta Saunders? Will they institute a national action plan and call an inquiry into murdered and missing women?” said Crowder.Again Leitch stuck to the talking points, but this time referred to the recently wrapped up special Parliamentary committee on murdered and missing Indigenous women.“We have taken action and will continue taking action,” she said. “I encourage all members of this House to join with the government. Let’s make sure we are taking action to deal with this tragic issue.”Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou NDP MP Romeo Saganash, who is Cree, launched the last question for the NDP.“Her assassination, her murder is a tragic irony. We must honour her memory, just as we must honour the memory of the women who were disappeared or murdered. We waited too long to shed light on what happened in residential schools. Let’s not repeat the same mistake,” said Saganash.Leitch was unmoved.“We have taken and action and will continue to do that,” said Leitch. “All of which the opposition look to not support.”Prime Minister Stephen Harper is opposed to calling a national inquiry. He personally expressed this view during a meeting with First Nation chiefs last January and personally on a separate occasion to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo.On March 7, the special parliamentary committee into violence against Indigenous women will table it’s report. Many of the witnesses that went before the committee called for a national [email protected]last_img read more