Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I rise to respond to the motion brought forward by the official opposition regarding missing and murdered aboriginal children.
My riding in eastern Ontario includes the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan and I am proud of the working relationship that I developed with Chief Kirby Whiteduck and his band councillors, Jim Meness, Daniel Kohoko, Ronald Benard, Jerry Lavalley, Cliff Meness, and Sherrylyn Sarazin. It is important to develop positive relations, particularly in areas like economic development, unemployment and the provision of social services.
Rural issues cross all boundaries. Renfrew County residents know how important it is to work together as we share common goals.
Fortunately for our resident aboriginal population, many of the challenges that face urban dwellers, particularly aboriginal women, are not the issues we face in rural Ontario and in rural Renfrew County and the Nipissing District community of South Algonquin in my riding.
The Government of Canada is deeply concerned about the high incidence of violence against aboriginal women and the impact of this violence on families and communities. As a member of the Government of Canada, I share our deep concern about the incidence of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.
I am sure there is not a person here today who could begin to fathom the tragic losses that far too many aboriginal families have experienced in the aftermath of violent crime. All parliamentarians are in full agreement that violent crimes committed against aboriginal women and girls must be strongly denounced. Not only must they be denounced, but we must take concrete action to prevent such violence in the first place. We must protect women and girls from violence. We need to ensure that strong law enforcement and justice systems are in place to support victims and bring those who commit these acts to justice.
These actions are in keeping with the recommendations from the House of Commons Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. I am pleased to confirm it was our Conservative government that established the special committee on missing and murdered aboriginal women in 2013. The committee conducted hearings into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada. It was mandated to propose solutions to address the root causes of violence against aboriginal women and girls. In March 2014, the special committee released its report, “Invisible Women: A Call to Action”.
I am encouraged to report that this is precisely what we are doing with the September 2014 release of our Conservative government's action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls. The action plan includes a range of measures totalling nearly $200 million over five years to address violence against aboriginal women and girls. It is informed by the many studies and reports on this issue which have increased our knowledge and understanding of the nature and causes of these crimes. This includes the intelligence gathered through the RCMP's recent national operational overview.
There have already been over 40 studies related to missing and murdered aboriginal women. Aboriginal organizations and family members have told us what is needed now is action. That is what the action plan to address family violence and violent crimes against aboriginal women and girls is designed to do. It prevents violence by supporting community level solutions, supports aboriginal victims with appropriate services, and protects aboriginal women and girls by investing in shelters and continuing to improve Canada's law enforcement and justice systems. With this action plan, our government uses the best tools at our disposal to prevent violence, support victims, and protect aboriginal women and girls.
Of course, a plan alone will not achieve all of the results that we need. Reducing violence requires a collective effort from everyone with a stake in this issue. It requires more than just the actions of the federal government. It requires collaboration. It requires leadership from police, the justice system, aboriginal communities, and organizations. It also requires constant engagement with those aboriginal families that have been torn apart by this violence.
At the February 2015 National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, families courageously shared their stories, and the experiences that they shared were both tragic and enlightening. They highlighted the need for better coordination and better communication, and the need for measurable and tangible actions that will demonstrate progress and results. The roundtable proved very useful in this regard, and all of the participants agreed on further actions to be taken jointly, with a commitment to a second roundtable to take place in 2016. Partners collectively committed to work toward better prevention, safety, policing, and justice measures to address violence against aboriginal women and girls across Canada.
The Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada plays an important role in addressing, protecting, and preventing family violence in communities. The department funds a variety of programs and services to support better outcomes for aboriginal women, girls, and families, including family violence prevention activities, child and family services, economic security and prosperity through skills and training and economic development, along with housing and education.
The family violence prevention program is one critical component. With an annual budget of $31.74 million, the program supports the day to day operations of 41 shelters for women and their children, as well as prevention activities, which involve men and boys and women and girls. Approximately 329 communities, or 55% of all first nations, are served by the 41 Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada funded shelters.
In 2013-14, these shelters provided services to over 2,330 children and 2,850 women living on reserve. In areas where there are no shelters on reserve, first nations may access provincial shelters, crisis lines and/or transportation services to nearby shelters. The program also reimburses Alberta and Yukon for shelter services provided to women and children considered ordinary residents on reserve who access provincial shelters.
As of April 1 of this year, an additional $1.34 million is being made available for family violence prevention activities. The kinds of activities receiving funds include public awareness campaigns, conferences, support groups, and community needs assessments. Over 300 such community-based projects were funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in 2012-13. Since 2006, the department has invested $242.6 million in family violence prevention. These investments have provided shelter services for almost 22,000 children and over 25,500 women.
This is money well spent. The family violence prevention program increases the safety and security of women, children and families on reserve by providing a refuge for victims of violence.
I want to assure my hon. colleagues that our commitment extends to women and girls living off reserve. The department supports important investments through urban aboriginal strategy programming, and the strategy is delivered in partnership with the National Association of Friendship Centres.
I have appreciated the opportunity to discuss the many ways that we prevent violence against aboriginal women and children.