A new poll shows that a majority of Canadians support a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, but fewer than half believe that the endeavor will prompt lasting change.
According to the survey results, released on Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute, four in five Canadians (79 per cent) say they’re in favour of a national inquiry. Among those supporters, however, 37 per cent expressed pessimism that the inquiry will make things better for indigenous women when completed.
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“There is a strong sense that this is a process that should be followed,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.
“However, there are a lot of people who are familiar in this country, and frankly quite cynical about, the inquiry process in terms of what happens once all the witnesses have been heard from, once all the testimony has been collected, once people have had that healing experience and speak up.”
Overall, factoring in those who do not support the inquiry, 48 per cent of the respondents said they were pessimistic about the possible outcomes, with the most commonly cited reason for this pessimism being the belief that any recommendations the investigation produces won’t be implemented.
“We have experience in this country of what it’s like to not see inquiry results acted upon,” Kurl said. “I mean, take your pick, name your inquiry.”
The least commonly cited reason for pessimism was that “this issue is over-exaggerated in the first place.” That option was chosen by 7 per cent of respondents.
People don’t know what the main goal of the inquiry will be yet, Kurl noted, which makes it harder for them to formulate opinions. The overall shape and scope are expected be announced by the Liberals in the coming weeks.
The poll also found that:
Regional divisions exist when it comes to support for the inquiry. In Central and Atlantic Canada, about 80 per cent of respondents were in favour. In Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan — which have higher proportions of Aboriginal residents — the number was closer to 60 per cent.There was no province where more people were against the inquiry than in favour.Canadian women are more supportive of an inquiry, and more optimistic about its outcome, than men.Those who voted Conservative in the last election were more likely to say they were against an inquiry, with 43 per cent coming down on that side. Among Liberal supporters, it was 14 per cent, and among those who identified as NDP voters, 11 per cent.
Kurl said the regional disparities in particular are interesting.
“You’ve got folks in Saskatchewan and Manitoba who have a different perspective, a more hardened view around these issues,” she said.
“At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as an average Canadian … Regional divides are often a big part of what separates public opinion in this country.”
The Liberals announced the first phase of the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in early December, with federal ministers spending the next two months crisscrossing the country to meet with victims, family members and other stakeholders.
The previous Conservative government had opposed a public inquiry, arguing that the issue has already been studied extensively, and framing it as a law-and-order problem.
In late 2014, the Conservatives tabled a $25 million plan to address violence against aboriginal women and girls, which included funding for shelters, programs to help prevent family violence, support for police investigations and the creation of a missing persons index. The party has since reversed its stance on the inquiry, with interim leader Rona Ambrose saying she supports it.
The online Angus Reid Institute poll was conducted between Feb. 22 and 25, 2016, among a representative randomized sample of 1,515 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. Typically, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.