Government hears from survivors

National inquiry should focus on prevention and healing.

In the story ‘Government seeks input on design and scope of national inquiry’ published in the Lakes District News’ Jan. 13, 2016 issue, a pre-inquiry meeting was scheduled to take place in Prince George on Jan. 14.

In December 2015, the federal government announced it would launch a national inquiry to address the high number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. Since then, pre-inquiry meetings have been held across the country to hear from survivors, family members and loved ones of victims to seek their views on the design and scope of the inquiry.

Although these meetings are closed to the general public and media, general summaries are being posted on the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website – http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/ – following each meeting.

The meeting in Prince George was held over two days, Jan. 14-15, and had approximately 80 participants, including three federal ministers – Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs; Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; and Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women.

Although participants agreed the process should include a thorough investigation of cold cases and a review of how evidence and remains are handled, they agreed the process should focus on prevention and healing.

During the meeting, participants identified the main issues that the inquiry must address, including:

– Causes of violence;

– Impacts of the residential school system, including on parenting;

– Impacts of abuse, including sexual abuse;

– Systemic racism, stigma and stereotypes;

– Problems associated with intergovernmental relationships;

– Police protocols, including how and when to report a missing person, response time, and length of time spent actively investigating a case;

– Transportation safety needs, including along remote highways;

– Inequities in treatment of cases of murdered Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, including in sentencing and parole;

– And ways to support families to heal and deal with trauma.

Participants also discussed who should lead the inquiry. They talked about the need to consider having a panel of three to four persons. Some felt the panel should be gender balanced, while others thought it should be led by Aboriginal women. Some participants said this panel should reflect the diversity of Aboriginal Peoples, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit, and others suggested it be guided by a group of advisors made up of survivors, family members and elders.

Participants said they want the inquiry’s final report to include recommendations that are specific and aimed at various levels of government and across different systems.

In addition, participants said the inquiry should build on existing knowledge and information, including from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and international examinations of Canada’s response to missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

At the end of this engagement process, government will report back on what has been heard from the participants. The views and ideas expressed by all participants will allow the government to develop the inquiry, including the mandate, the terms of reference, the format of the inquiry, and the timeline.