A red ribbon attached to an eagle feather is held up during ceremonies marking the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women report in Gatineau, Monday June 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Policing community eyes change after missing, murdered Indigenous women inquiry

Canada still needs an independent national police task force, report says

Melanie Morrison says her sister went missing in June 2006 — a unusual disappearance because she was a young mother.

She says when their mom went to police, her sister was presumed to be “out with friends” and the police figured she’d show up.

Four years later, Morrison’s sister’s remains were found.

“It was devastating because where she was found was less than a kilometre from her home,” wrote Morrison, a member of a volunteer advisory circle for the national public inquiry, as part of the foreword to the commission’s final report.

She also said the way police files on Indigenous women are treated is wrong — a central thread in the federally funded commission’s findings and recommendations published on Monday.

“My hope would be that there is an immediate change of how the police handle Indigenous files on- or off-reserve so there’s no delay in pursuing every possible option to find that missing or murdered loved one,” Morrison said.

Monday’s report contains 231 recommendations, framed as “calls for justice,” including standardized response times to reports of missing Indigenous persons and women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual people) people experiencing violence.

The commission also called on the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to make sure there is consistency in reporting when people go missing or are found dead.

The association, which had standing at the inquiry, said it is grateful to be trusted with the responsibility, adding it will study the commission’s findings, its recommendations and how the police chiefs can assist police services across Canada.

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Concerns about the RCMP were also raised in the final report — findings the national police force said it accepts.

In a statement, Commissioner Brenda Lucki said her force has already started to work on policy and procedure changes during the course of the inquiry’s work, such as creating a national unit to help with major investigations and in updating policies and procedures for missing-person and sudden-death investigations.

Lucki also said the Mounties will carefully consider changes that strengthen investigations, support survivors and families and reduce violence.

“During my appearance before the inquiry in June 2018, I apologized to the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on behalf of the RCMP, and promised that we will do better to investigate these cases and support families,” she said.

“We are committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples through a renewed relationship built on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”

The inquiry’s interim report, released in November 2017, called on the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to create a national police task force where families and survivors could seek to reopen cases or review investigations.

READ MORE: ‘Now the real work begins:’ Families urge action after missing women inquiry report

In response, the federal government announced that it would provide $9.6 million over five years to support the RCMP’s new national investigative standards and practices unit to provide national oversight to major investigations.

This does not fulfil the national inquiry’s recommendation, the commission’s final report says.

Canada still needs an independent national police task force specifically designed to meet the needs of family members and survivors of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people, it adds.

“Our most important objection to providing additional funding to the RCMP in this manner is that, once again, this involves police policing themselves,” the report says.

“The RCMP have not proven to Canada that they are capable of holding themselves to account — and, in fact, many of the truths shared here speak to ongoing issues of systemic and individual racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination that prevent honest oversight from taking place.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in Vancouver that the government is working on a national action plan in response to the inquiry’s final report and it will be ready in ”the coming months.”

With a federal election looming in October, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde urged all federal parties on Tuesday to make responding to the inquiry one of their key platform planks, saying they have an obligation to do so.

READ ALSO: Train health-care providers to ditch racism as part of Canada’s cancer strategy: report

—With files from Jim Bronskill

Kristy Kirkup , The Canadian Press


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