Liberal government says extensive consultations will precede national inquiry into MMIW
- Fraser Needham | December 09, 2015
The new Liberal government says it will soon launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women but it wants to get it right first.
This is why the federal government will be conducting extensive consultations with various stakeholders in coming months – including victims of violence and their families, Aboriginal leaders and community groups – before officially launching the inquiry sometime in 2016.
This is being called phase one while the actual inquiry will constitute phase two.
The national consultations will be led by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu.
The government has also designed a discussion guide which will soon be available online to help focus meetings on the inquiry design process.
Questions in the discussion guide include who should conduct the inquiry, its length, who should be heard and what issues considered.
The public and other stakeholders will be encouraged to submit their own answers to these questions once the discussion guide is available online.
“Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls represent a heartbreaking national tragedy that must be addressed immediately,” Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett says in a released statement. “Inaction ends today. This is why we need to hear from all Canadians – especially survivors, families and loved ones, Indigenous organizations, and provinces and territories – to help us identify the best process for this inquiry.”
Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte is the co-chair of Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), a support network for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women based out of Saskatoon.
She says extensive consultations prior to officially launching a national inquiry are the right way to go.
“I think it’s necessary to have that design process, to have that inclusive process,” Okemaysim-Sicotte says. “That’s why they are meeting with families right away Friday and it won’t be the only place or time they will be meeting with families. In the next while they will be engaging with national advocacy groups and grassroots people to work on that design process because that’s going to be the necessary part of the groundwork leading up to the time they actually start the inquiry in the spring. So I think it’s very necessary to start on those grounds. It will start building their database and they will start seeing a repeat of the same wishes. Some of them will be very dynamic from each other and there’s other things they don’t want to miss. So I think it’s important the design process has a lot of feedback and input by as many people as possible.”
The Liberal government has committed two years and $40 million to a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The government announcement was made in Ottawa on December 8.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau met with Assembly of First Nations leaders in nearby Gatineau, Quebec.
A 2014 RCMP report estimates 1,181 Indigenous women were either killed or went missing between 1980 and 2012.
The previous Conservative government repeatedly refused to call an inquiry into the issue.