Open Letter to IWFA Committee Chair Stella Ambler, MP Regarding Concerns Held by New Democratic Committee Members

Being from Northern Manitoba and having the honour of representing our home, there is no doubt that one of the most difficult issues raised is that of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women. First Nations and Métis people, along with allies in Manitoba, have fought for justice and an end to the violence for years. Many people in our region and across the country have called for a national inquiry and for national action, a position supported by the NDP.  I have proudly stood with Aboriginal women in calling for an inquiry and for urgent action to end violence against Aboriginal women.

There is currently in place a Special Parliamentary Committee, IWFA - an opportunity to draw attention to Aboriginal peoples' calls to action. As you may know, this committee is the result of a motion passed in the House of Commons last February. The NDP was not consulted on the motion before it was presented in the House and debated. You can find the motion here and you can find information and past transcripts from committee meetings held this spring here.

We need your help in ensuring that members of the Government are working with family members, Aboriginal organizations like NWAC and others to undertake action on an urgent basis. New Democrats are keen to move forward, including the implementation of my Private Member's bill on a strategy on Violence Against Women. We cannot rest until there are no more women and girls going missing or being murdered in Canada.

Below is a letter written by the New Democratic committee members to the Chair, Stella Ambler, MP. You can also find this letter in both English and French in PDF format below. Please feel free to be in touch with me on any thoughts, concerns or information requests on the special committee and on the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.


Niki Ashton, MP - Churchill | députée de Churchill

Status of Women Critic | Condition féminine Critique


Stella Ambler, MP

Chair - Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6


June 19, 2013

Dear Chair,

New Democrats, like all members of the Special Committee on Violence Against Aboriginal Women (IWFA), believe in the urgency of addressing the crisis of violence facing First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls. For New Democrats, it remains critical that the Government commit to a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and develop a national action plan to end violence against women. During Canada’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, the creation of  IWFA was highlighted by the Government of Canada as an example of how the government is taking action on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. 

We have significant concerns about the way IWFA is working. We believe that IWFA is not functioning well for two reasons. First, there is a lack of clarity in the process and purpose of the committee, and secondly, IWFA is operating like any other committee, without taking into account the sensitive and special nature of its study. We are still hopeful that committee members will commit to working collaboratively in a non-partisan manner to get the committee on track to identify meaningful solutions and actions for ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls.

Many of our suggested witnesses will not agree to testify before IWFA as they do not trust that the process will result in action. Proposed witnesses report that they are not willing to put themselves through the trauma and heartache of sharing their stories while seeing little will by the government to take meaningful action.

The scope of the IWFA has been narrowed to three themes thus far:  “violence and its root causes,” “frontline assistance,” and “preventing violence against Aboriginal women”.  While these important themes have been developed, there is no clarity on the value-added process and purpose of IWFA. There is no indication of how this “study” will be different than existing studies and past recommendations on this issue.  To build trust with Aboriginal women, and as a matter of good practice, the committee needs  an overarching vision of what it is hoping to achieve, guidelines for its processes, and a clear work plan with end goals and timelines We are also concerned that if this special committee continues to operate just like any other Parliamentary committee, the outcomes will not result in meaningful solutions or actions. The committee cannot function in the usual way given the scope and sensitive nature of the crisis. Members of IWFA need to ensure that the committee is culturally sensitive and inclusive. To help guide the committee, the inclusion of Aboriginal voices is essential. We recognize the special status given to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and we hope that the voices of the families, community voices and representatives of Metis and Inuit communities will also have consideration. To help facilitate this participation and engagement, more needs to be done to raise the visibility of the committee and its work.

We believe it is important for the subcommittee to meet well in advance of the Committee resuming its work in September, in order to address these and other concerns. New Democrats will continue to work in good faith to make this Special committee do the best work it can and we look forward to hearing your response.


Libby Davies, MP

Jean Crowder, MP

Niki Ashton, MP

Romeo Saganash, MP