Senator urges MPs to pass bill defending aboriginal women

OTTAWA—The House of Commons should work quickly to pass a Senate bill aimed at deterring violence against aboriginal women, a Saskatchewan senator said last Tuesday.

Senator Lillian Eva Dyck’s Senate Public Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for violent offences against aboriginal women), would require courts to consider more severe sanctions against people convicted of violent offences against aboriginal women. In the event that the victim of is an aboriginal woman, that fact would be considered an aggravating circumstance on sentencing.

The bill is a direct response to the national tragedy of the more than 1,200 missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. The intention of this bill is to ensure people who commit acts of violence against aboriginal women and girls receive just sentences that reflect the gravity of these offences.

“The evidence that aboriginal women are targets of violent acts is indisputable,” Senator Dyck said. “We know that aboriginal females are three to four times more likely than other Canadian women to be murdered, sexually assaulted or to disappear.”

“Enshrining this bill into law would send a clear and strong signal to the court system and to the public at large denouncing the violent targeting of aboriginal women and girls,” the senator added.

The Criminal Code already lists a number of factors that are considered to be aggravating, i.e. circumstances that will generally result in a more severe punishment for an offender.

Senator Dyck’s bill would apply to a range of violent offences including assault, murder, manslaughter and sexual assault. Bill S-215 passed third reading in the Senate on December 15, 2016 and will be on the Order Paper of the House, which resumed sitting on January 30, 2017.

Bill S-215 is supported by the Assembly of First Nations and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

Senator Lillian Eva Dyck is an aboriginal senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.