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Dear Editor

Since Mr. Miller has declared he won't be attending the all-candidates debate, I would like to take this opportunity to ask him a few pointed questions about his government's priorities.

Harper has declared his government as "tough on crime" and the mere hint of a terrorist threat is reacted to swiftly with legislation and money. But a far bigger threat than terrorism exists for our women and girls. Thirty percent of women in Canada will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, most before the age of 25. And if you're aboriginal, those rates climb, and the assaults are more violent and more often. Yet one of the first items of business the Harper government undertook in 2006 was to close 12 of the 16 regional offices for the Status of Women in Canada, and then removed their funding for advocacy work.

And if you're an indigenous women, you don't even make the radar. When pressed for an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women of this country, he statedthat it's a police matter and should be left with the police. This issue is bigger than just the police. Police don't build women's shelters, or homes for women to live in. They don't look at root causes, they are charged with solving crimes, not preventing them.

And it hasn't been dealt with, which is why it's still an issue. When the truth and reconciliation commission came to an end this week, again our government was silent. (And as a side note, the students had to sue for the TRC to even happen and fund it out of their settlement funds.) We cannot change the past, but we can change the future if the political will is there. True reconciliation would have us taking action, how do we mend our relations with First Nations, how do we help them to heal from the devastating way they've been treated?

Instead this government underspent on promised spending. According to the CBC, "...while Aboriginal Affairs stands out as the only social-service department regularly falling so short of budget." This is money promised by our government but underspent by $1 billion over the last five years. I know money isn't the answer to everything, but I think it could go a long way to building women's shelters, safe places where they can escape domestic violence, or helping with the housing crisis on reserves so that a woman may have a chance at her own home. For many, there is no escape, nowhere to go other than the street in some distant city.

And while our government is underspending on many programs, including veteran affairs ($1.1B but I'll leave that issue for another letter) they've managed to find the cash to fund two oversized monuments. One is for the victims of communism, a monument so big it's slated to take up a whole city block in our nation's capital. And another monument, Mother Canada, a ten-storey tall statue to be erected in a national park in Cape Breton.

We know this government is about spending less, cutting taxes, providing fewer services. But it only seems like extreme hubris to be erecting such monuments at a time of fiscal restraint.

I don't see any monuments being erected to the victims of residential schools, or to the missing and murdered indigenous women. But I don't think the victims and survivors want a monument. What they want is action and a big first step would be to initiate an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women of this country. I would like to see more action on the threats all women face in Canada, but their situation is far more dire than ours.

So I'd like to ask my representative, when will your government call an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women? Why is monument building a priority for this government? Why are we "saving" money in Aboriginal Affairs when the needs are still so great? And finally, are we building monuments on the backs of indigenous women?

Diane Ferguson, CPA, CA
Williamsford, ON

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