Why is nothing still being done about missing and murdered aboriginal women?

Scott Reid asks some uncomfortable but necessary questions

Nothing. Not a damned thing. A deliberate and enormous dose of nothing at all.

That is the only accurate description for what the Harper government has done in response to this summer’s killing of Tina Fontaine and the resulting calls for an inquiry into this country’s more than 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Nothing. Not hardly even lip service.

For roughly 10 days in August, the nation took a short break from not caring about these women, most of whom linger on the margins of society. The shattering horror of this 15- year-old girl’s murder — the way she was snapped and squeezed into a garbage bag and then disposed of casually — stirred some brief attention. Aboriginal groups, the country’s premiers, opposition leaders and editorialists caused a short-lived ruckus. There were calls for a formal inquiry to examine the root causes of this unstopping tragedy, the adequacy of the police response, and what might be done to better respond to and halt the frequent loss of life. Even some prominent Conservatives added their voices to this cause, including Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan.

Stephen Harper said no.

He insisted that Tina’s death, and all the other deaths and all the other assumed-but-we’ll-probably-never-know-for-sure-what-happened-deaths are a matter strictly for the police. And that was pretty much all he had to say, silently suggesting that either he doesn’t believe there are root causes to such violence and murder or, if they do exist, they are better left to someone else to care about and deal with.

Quickly, others came forward with a host of reinforcing arguments as to why an inquiry would be a dreadful waste of time — that it would divert funds that could otherwise be dedicated to helping aboriginal women or that it would tell us nothing we don’t know already or that it would be an insult to the police or that it isn’t justified because statistics show that aboriginal men are dying at equally alarming rates. Not every argument against an inquiry was dedicated to doing nothing. But in their own way each ended up lending momentum to that cause.

Eventually, someone came up with the less uncomfortable idea of a national roundtable. Less out of a sense of embarrassment than a desire to simply shove the issue aside, the government agreed. It promised to get to work.

Then the news happened, as it always will. Mike Duffy lumbered into our lives again. ISIL released beheading videos. We went to war. Two soldiers were killed on our own soil. Sexual harassment exploded as a topic of national discussion. With every passing day these important matters dominated an increasing share of mind and, by default, Tina moved further and further from our thoughts.

It’s now been 96 days since her tiny, busted body was fished from the Red River. In the competition to respond to that tragedy, nothing is winning. And it’s winning by a mile.

Pro Tip: Cameras for Politicians

Ever since working at Don’s Photo, I have been contacted by politicians on both sides of the political spectrum and asked what kind of camera they should be using.  Basically they want something small but takes better photos than the $129 camera they have now.  While Brad Wall might have an entourage to make him look good, even cabinet ministers do things by themselves and don’t have a camera crew surrounding them.

Here are my two picks

Sony RX-100 / Sony RX-100 II

Sony RX-100 II

The Sony RX-100 and RX-100 II are the two best compact cameras on the market.  They are amazing in low light which is where you spend most of your time.  I am not talking about back rooms or seedy hotel rooms but rather indoors like your office or in community centres for photo ops.  That is where this camera excels.  In fact the New York Times called it the best camera they had ever seen.

The problem with these camera is that the RX-100 is around $650 and the RX-100 II is $850.  I think they are worth it but unless you are in Alison Redford’s cabinet, you can’t expense something like that or you would have the Canadian Taxpayers Federation all over you.  The last thing you want is to be the person that took the media focus off of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.

So if you are going to get one, make sure you pay for it out of your salary or get your constituency organization to pick it up.  To be honest, you will like this camera so much that you will want to pick it up yourself.

Canon S120 (or S200)

Canon S120

Canon also has an amazing compact camera optimized for low light and that is the Canon S120.  It’s smaller than the RX-100 but has a good build quality and fast f1.8 lens.   It has a powerful image processor and can be found on sale for around $350.  The S200 has a slightly slower lens (f2) but can be had for $250.  The best value may be the older S110 which can be had for $250 but still has the faster lens that the updated S120 does.  The Canon has slightly more zoom but the Sony is faster zoomed out (giving you better photos when zoomed out)

Both cameras are small enough to go anywhere but more importantly are powerful enough to take good photos of you and the event you are at in poor light without a flash.  They also take 1080p video at nearly broadcast quality (which would have helped Stephane Dion the night he gave his ill-fated coalition speech).  With metal build quality, they will also stand up the wear and tear of the rubber chicken circuit (even if you won’t).

If you are a politician and rely on good photos as part of your public image, ditch the camera that you have, put down your iPhone and get one of these, preferably from your local camera shop.

A good man caught in an ugly world

Kelly MacParland on Nigel Wright

I’ve never met Nigel Wright, and all I know of him is what I’ve read. But after consuming the 80-page, minutely detailed RCMP document released Wednesday, I have to say I sympathize with the guy. He comes across in the document just as his defenders have described him: capable, dedicated, “a person of good faith, of competence, with high ethical standards,” as Jason Kenney put it. You get the impression of a man who found himself in a rat’s nest, and tried to keep one of the rats from destroying himself. Instead, he got destroyed too.

That’s not the sentiment you’re supposed to have towards Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff. You’re supposed to denounce him as the Machiavellian hand behind the dark and devious manipulations that helped bring a corrupt Senate to public disgrace. His great sin, personally paying off $90,000 in expense claims made by Mike Duffy, was a monumental mistake. But you can understand how he got there after months of maddening efforts to achieve what must have seemed a simple quest: getting Duffy to repay the $90,000 he’d claimed in inappropriate housing and other expenses.

From the start, Wright doesn’t think Duffy has broken any laws. The Senate rules on “primary” residence are such that Duffy may be able to justify a claim that, legally, he’s done nothing wrong. “I…believe that Mike was doing what people told him he should do, without thinking about it too much,” he relates in one message. But Wright is convinced it’s a clear ethical breach and Duffy is morally bound to repay the money. It’s getting the senator to admit as much that causes the headaches.

In an interview with RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton, who headed the investigation and prepared the exhaustive outline, Wright reveals that since joining the Prime Minister’s Office he hasn’t filed a single expense claim, paying all his flights, hotels, meals and other costs from his own pocket. It has already cost him tens of thousands of dollars, but, thanks to his corporate career, he can afford it, and, Horton writes, “it is his global view and contribution to public policy that taxpayers not bear the cost of his position if he can legitimately afford to fund it himself.” He gives the same reason for his fatal decision to write a cheque to cover Duffy’s expenses, after concluding Duffy legitimately didn’t have the money: “He did not view it as something out of the norm for him to do, and was part of being a good person. He said it was a personal decision, and he did not want a lot of people to know about it.”

Fascinating read.  You have a sympathetic figure in Nigel Wright, the devious and self serving Mike Duffy and then the rather incompetent Senate.  No wonder why Harper wants is abolished.  They can’t even execute a scandal right.