Missing, murdered inquiry stalled by government bureaucracy: report

Interim report calls for creation of national police task force to assess or reopen cases or review investigations 

OTTAWA -The commissioners of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are blaming federal red tape for the delays that have plagued the inquiry so far.

In an interim report out today, entitled “Our Women and Girls are Sacred,” the inquiry says the federal government’s procurement and contracting policies resulted in an eight-month delay setting up offices.

The 118 page report  entitled, Our Women and Girls are Sacred ,says those offices initially had to operate without proper phones, internet and office equipment, and that there were long delays in procuring the material necessary for staffers to do their work.

Marion Buller

“We have faced several obstacles from a bureaucratic and procedural and policy perspective in getting our national inquiry up and running and mobilized all across Canada,” chief commissioner Marion Buller told a news conference.

“We need enough time to do the job properly, to hear from families and survivors who want to speak to us, to hear from institutions about their policies and procedures, and to hear from experts in human rights and other topics.”

Buller compared the work of the inquiry to that of the five-year Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which explored the legacy of Canada’s residential school system, a tragedy that was purely historical in scope, she said.

“Our problems are historical and ongoing,” Buller said a suggestion that perhaps her inquiry will need at least as long as the TRC, if not longer.

“Indigenous women and girls are suffering violence. That somehow has become normalized, and that is a national tragedy … it comes back to how long it’s going to take to do this right.”

As the inquiry’s work continues to ramp up and gain profile, more and more people are coming forward who want to be heard, she added.

Of all 900 people who have come forward so far, 100 of them registered in the last month alone.

Commissioners Brian Eyolfson and Qajaq Robinson told the news conference that racist and colonialist attitudes have been a pervasive theme of what witnesses have been telling the inquiry.

“They did this morning, and yesterday, and the day before,” Robinson said.

The commissioners say the inquiry has to adhere to human resources, information technology and contracting rules that apply to all areas of the federal government, restrictions that they say have badly impaired the inquiry’s ability to contract the necessary people and services.

The federal Liberal government has already earmarked $53.8 million over two years for the inquiry, which is aimed at examining the patterns and factors underlying the systemic causes of violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.

The interim report has called for three immediate calls for action:

  • Work collaboratively with provinces and territories to create a national police task force to which the National Inquiry could refer families and survivors to assess or reopen cases or review investigations.
  • Establish a commemoration fund in collaboration with families, survivors and national and regional Indigenous organizations.
  • Provide additional funding to Health Canada’s Resolution Health Support Program to expand its services to meet the increased needs flowing from the National Inquiries work, at a minimum, for the duration of the National Inquiry.

 

The 10 recommendations

1. Implementation of all Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, particularly those that impact Indigenous women and children, including the immediate implementation of Jordan’s Principle and the immediate and full implementation of the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation, and including a federal action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of UNDRIP;

2. Full compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling (2016) that found that Canada was racially discriminating against First Nations children. Along with the endorsement of existing recommendations that can immediately address
systemic violence and its underlying causes, the National Inquiry recommends the following:

3. That the federal government find a way to provide the contact information of the families and survivors who participated in the pre-Inquiry process to the National Inquiry. Alternatively, that the federal government provide families and survivors who participated in the
pre-Inquiry process information on how to participate in the National Inquiry.

4. That federal, provincial, and territorial governments provide project funding, in addition to regular operational funds, to help ensure Indigenous organizations’ full and meaningful participation in the National Inquiry.

5. That the federal government establish a commemoration fund in collaboration with national and regional Indigenous organizations (including Indigenous women’s organizations) and in partnership with family coalitions, Indigenous
artists, and grassroots advocates who have spearheaded commemoration events and initiatives related to missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people.

6. That the federal government immediately provide additional funding to Health Canada’s Resolution Health Support Program and expand its services to meet the increased needs flowing from the National Inquiry’s work, and at a minimum for
the duration of the National Inquiry.

7. That Health Canada’s Resolution Health Support Program provide funding to Indigenous organizations and other service providers (including provincial and territorial governments) through contribution agreements and transfer funds to provide
the necessary health supports to families and survivors participating in the National Inquiry’s Truth-Gathering Process and engaging in its commemoration activities.

8. That the federal government undertake an engagement process with families, survivors, Indigenous organizations, and the National Inquiry to investigate the feasibility of restoring the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

9. That the federal government work collaboratively with provinces and territories to create a national police task force to which the National Inquiry could refer families and survivors to assess or reopen cases or review investigations.

10. Given the short time frame of the National Inquiry and the urgency of establishing robust administrative structures and processes, that the federal government provide alternatives and options to its administrative rules to enable the National Inquiry to fulfill the terms of its mandate.

The 118-page report entitled, Our Women and Girls are Sacred outlines what the NI-MMIWG has accomplished to date, acknowledges challenges in establishing a unique and unprecedented National Inquiry of this nature and makes some recommendations for immediate support to assist families that want to participate in the process, including a call to extend the timelines. Most importantly, the Interim Report serves as the blueprint for moving the National Inquiry forward in a good way.

The  inquiry, it says is unprecedented because it covers 14 jurisdictions and looks at the issue of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S people in a manner that is culturally centered. The Truth Gathering Process has four fundamental components: research, Community Hearings, Institutional Hearings, and Expert Hearings. The overall process strives to put families and survivors first while honouring those who have been taken.

The commission says some initial challenges,  it has gained momentum with Indigenous women, girls, transgendered and two-people and families stepping forward to share their important stories. and is determined to keep moving forward in a good way – for the 905 and counting – who want to participate in the National Inquiry. To date, the NI-MMIWG has heard 269 testimonies over three hearings – spanning from Yukon, British Columbia and Manitoba – with one happening today in Membertou, Nova Scotia.  There are also six more scheduled to happen until January 2018.

Indigenous women make up nearly one quarter of homicide victims in Canada and are 12 times more likely to be missing or murdered than any other women in Canada today.

I Chief Commissioner Marion Buller and Commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Qajaq Robinson and Michèle Audette, outline the next steps as follows:

  • We have many more truths to hear through the Community Hearings model we have established.
  • We need to re-explore the time we have to hear from the growing number of families and survivors registered to share their stories (905 to date) and properly look at all forms of violence, while building a foundation for community-based solutions. In practical terms, we believe this means extending the timeframe mandated to complete this inquiry.
  • We will establish the Institutional Hearings Process where we will question various jurisdictions and public institutions on the systemic forms of violence, racism and abuse that our women and girls have suffered at the hands of these parties.
  • We will convene expert panels of Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants to examine overarching themes such as the human rights of Indigenous women and girls.

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller says “With the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Interim Report, we are able to reflect on what we have learned after months of research and the living experience of establishing an Inquiry of this magnitude.”

She said “Our women, girls and two-spirited people and their families continue to suffer from violence today and we know that they are re-traumatized as they tell their stories to us.  That is why this Interim Report calls for the immediate increased support both financially and for counselling services for families and survivors.  The need is much greater than the Inquiry can serve in an on-going manner.”

The National Inquiry will continue to focus on what matters most, she says “providing a safe space and enough time for families and survivors to tell their truths. It is these truths that will inform our recommendations to address the widespread systemic violence that Indigenous woman, girls and two-spirited people face, every day in Canada.”

The Government of Canada launched an independent National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in September 2016 to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors.

 

Quick Facts:

  • The federal government’s report on the pre-Inquiry engagement process was based on the feedback from more than 2,100 people, over 4,100 online survey responses and more than 300 other submissions.  Pg. 29
  • The National Inquiry has analyzed 98 reports on violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Pg. 33
  • Indigenous women are physically and sexually assaulted, or robbed almost three times as often as non-Indigenous women. Pg. 8
  • Indigenous women experience domestic violence more frequently, and more severely, than do non-Indigenous women. More often (52% versus 31%) Indigenous women in these situations fear for their lives. Pg. 8
  • In Manitoba, Indigenous women made up 86% of women admitted to prison in 2014/15, but only 14% of the general female population. Pg. 8
  • Statistics Canada reports that people who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are violently victimized nearly five times as often as people who identified as heterosexual. Pg.  8
  • In 2016, over 90% of children in care in Manitoba were Indigenous.  Pg. 10

Website:  A copy of the Interim Report Our Women and Girls are Sacred can be downloaded at National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

 

 

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