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Trudeau government fails Indigenous women with bungled inquiry

The Council of Canadians first supported the call for a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women in October 2012.

While Indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population, they account for 16 per cent of murdered women and 11.3 per cent of missing women in Canada. Over the past 30 years, an estimated 1,026 Indigenous women have been murdered and 160 are missing. We argued that an inquiry was needed to understand the root causes of this situation and to develop a national action plan to stop this ongoing tragedy.

The Harper government refused for years to convene a national inquiry, but the Liberals promised during the October 2015 election campaign that they would “immediately launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, to seek recommendations on concrete actions that governments, law enforcement, and others can take to solve these crimes and prevent future ones.”

By August 2016, we noted in this blog concerns being expressed by Indigenous women about the limited scope of the inquiry. Their criticisms include:

  • the degree to which the inquiry will examine how seriously police investigations were conducted into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (the inquiry will not have the authority to make findings of police misconduct);

  • that the inquiry won’t be able to compel the police to re-open closed cases;

  • the commissioners who were chosen;

  • how deeply the inquiry will look at colonialism and systemic issues; and

  • whether recommendations will even be implemented.

Yesterday, CBC reported, “The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), in its second report card on the inquiry, has singled out a number of areas where the commission holding the inquiry has let people down through poor communications, planning and outreach. …The report card graded the commission holding the inquiry on 15 areas, giving 10 areas a ‘fail’ and three an ‘action required’ rating, while noting that it did not have enough information to grade the inquiry in two other areas.”

The NWAC report says, “The families of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls deserve a public apology for not putting their needs first and not sharing information openly and effectively.”

APTN adds, “The report cards comes on the heels of more than 30 advocates, Indigenous leaders and family members issuing an open letter Monday to the chief commissioner of the inquiry, suggesting the process is in ‘serious trouble’. The group wrote that while it is aware the commission has a difficult challenge, immediate action must be taken to prevent damage and shift the current approach of the inquiry.”

That article highlights, “The commission is set to hold its first public hearing May 29 in Whitehorse, but other community meetings won’t take place until later this fall at the earliest. No other dates have been confirmed for additional hearings, an inquiry spokesperson said in a statement last week, and the commission has yet to develop a database comprising the names of the victims.”

This morning, The Globe and Mail editorial board commented, “The inquiry’s recent decision to delay until next fall the bulk of the testimony from surviving relatives of roughly 1,200 women and girls who vanished or were killed has angered those relatives. And no wonder. The goal of the inquiry is to address the powerlessness large numbers of Indigenous people feel in the face of a state that has been historically apathetic, when not outright hostile, to their plight. And now this.”

The editorial board concludes, “The families of Canada’s missing Indigenous women and girls deserve better than this.”

The inquiry’s interim report is due November 1, 2017.