Inquiry to examine root causes of MMIW national tragedy
- EFN Staff | August 12, 2016
Finally, after years of lobbying by Indigenous organizations, activists and the families of the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, the federal government has officially launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
"For over a decade, the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have been demanding action. Today, after meaningful engagement with the families, experts and those with lived experience, I am proud that the Prime Minister, with the support of all provinces and territories, has appointed five outstanding Commissioners who will now be able to do the work needed for Canada to put in place the concrete actions necessary to put an end to this national tragedy," said the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
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Carolyn Bennett, along with Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women, recently announced the five commissioners as well as the Terms of Reference for the National Inquiry.
The Honourable Marion Buller has been named Chief Commissioner. She is joined by Commissioners Michèle Audette, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras and Brian Eyolfson. There are many Saskatchewan connections on the Commission as Buller, currently a judge in BC, is from the Mistawasis First Nation and Marilyn Poitras is Métis from southern Saskatchewan and teaches at the University of Saskatchewan. Qajaq Robinson took some studies at the University of Saskatchewan as well.
Chief Commissioner Buller said at the launch that the job will be very “difficult” and that "The spirits of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls will be close in our hearts and in our minds as we do our work," she said.
“These extraordinary individuals bring a depth and mix of personal, academic and professional experiences to the task of listening, documenting and seeking to bring to light the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and to make recommendations for effective action,” said Minister Bennet in her speech. “They will listen in French, English and Inuktitut, and together will apply human rights, feminist, Indigenous law and traditional knowledge lenses to the extremely difficult examination of the disproportionate violence directed at Indigenous women and girls in this country.”
The choice of Commissioners was applauded by Indigenous organizations.
“We welcome the leadership shown by the Federal government today. After 11 years of NWAC listening to the families of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, we are pleased that we now have a government who is prepared to listen and act,” said Dawn Lavell-Harvard, NWAC President. “We want to acknowledge the great responsibility that the Commissioners have undertaken and commit to support them as they start this work. We recognize that five people cannot represent the diversity of our country and NWAC will work with the National Inquiry to ensure that all voices that need to be heard will be heard."
The Terms of Reference of the Inquiry direct the Commissioners first to explore systemic and underlying causes of violence. Second, to examine institutional policies and practices designed to address violence against Indigenous women and girls. This includes police conduct and investigations, as well as child welfare policies and other institutions. Third, to recommend concrete and effective action in order to remove systemic causes of violence and to increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls, and finally to recommend ways to honour and commemorate the Indigenous women and girls who are missing or have been murdered.
The Commissioners have powers bestowed on them through the Inquiries Act and can call before them any witness to give evidence and can require the production of documents relevant to their investigation. They can also set up regional committees to ensure the voice of communities is heard. The commission will be provided $53.86 million by the federal government over two years to complete its mandate by the end of 2018.
"The launch of the Inquiry represents a concrete expression of the government's commitment to honouring the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” said the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. “By examining the root causes that have contributed to this national tragedy, including past and present systemic and institutional barriers, the Commission of Inquiry will play a pivotal role in helping all of us to define where best to continue to act to protect the human rights of all Indigenous women and girls in Canada."