Yukon MP Ryan Leef was the lone Conservative to vote in favour of an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women in Parliament last week.
The motion, put forward by NDP MP Niki Ashton, called for a national action plan to address violence against women, and specially asked for the inquiry as one of the measures within the plan.
Leef said his vote was a matter of integrity, because of the commitment he made to Yukoners in 2013 to support the call for a federal inquiry. “I support it because Yukoners support it, and that’s my job, to make sure I represent Yukon’s voice.”
He said he personally supports the call for an inquiry, too, but only if the inquiry has clearly defined goals and proceeds in partnership with provinces, territories and First Nations.
“It’s not necessarily a fair question to say, ‘do you support it?’ and that’s it,” he said.
“I was pretty clear that in order for a national inquiry to have utility, it needs to be defined. To say you support it is one thing, but what does it look like is a completely different picture.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has consistently denied the need for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Last year during a visit to Whitehorse he insisted that police investigations are the appropriate venue to deal with such cases.
“We should not view this as sociological phenomenon, we should view it as crime. It is crime against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such,” he said at the time.
Harper’s action plan to address violence against aboriginal women, announced in September 2014, compiled a list of existing programs under old and renewed funding, but did not commit to new initiatives or increased resources.
Leef said he’s proud of what the Canadian government has accomplished so far.
“I think that the action that the prime minister has shown and the leadership he’s shown on that file is commendable, and it’s something I’ve been very proud to support, and it’s a team I’ve been very proud to be a part of because we are taking action.”
Leef said he let his Conservative colleagues and the prime minister know of his intentions to vote for the NDP motion, but did not attempt to sway them to his side. That’s between a MP and his or constituents, he said.
“They don’t owe me an explanation on this.”
“I respect the fact that we have different opinions on this. I respect their choices and their belief in action versus more studies.”
Leef criticized the NDP for using the issue as a political tool while refusing to support the Conservative government’s concrete action.
“If the NDP are so genuine about this, why is it that the leader of the opposition has had north of 300 interventions in the House of Commons on Senator Duffy, and only 12 on missing and murdered aboriginal women?” he asked.
He also noted that if the motion were to pass today, there wouldn’t be enough time to properly deal with its contents before the parliamentary sitting comes to a close.
Why did the NDP take so long to bring the motion forward? Leef asked.
“Nobody in this country, especially aboriginal women and girls, should tolerate this serious issue being used in such a transparently partisan manner, and unfortunately for them it is.”
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