Pre-Inquiry Talks End, MMIW ‘Way Bigger’ Than 1,200: Minister

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett speaks during a news conference on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry in Ottawa, Monday, February 15, 2016.

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett speaks during a news conference on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry in Ottawa, Monday, February 15, 2016.

The Canadian Press

The number of missing and murdered indigenous women across the country is “way bigger” than 1,200, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Monday.

Her comments came as the government marked the end of a consultation process with the families of victims as it prepares to establish a public inquiry into these losses.

The real breadth and depth of the tragedy is greater than was thought, Bennett said at a downtown Ottawa hotel as families met behind closed doors.

“It is bigger than 1,200,” she said. “Way bigger than 1,200.”

The minister’s comments suggest that an RCMP report in 2014, which put the tally at 1,181 murdered and missing women between 1980 and 2012, did not paint a complete picture of the magnitude of the problem. The force added another 32 deaths and 11 disappearances in a 2015 update.

Idle No More protesters over missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Protesters over missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Bennett, who has been travelling the country to talk to grieving loved ones, hopes the government will be able to develop the inquiry’s mandate by summer.

A key step in this process will involve naming a commissioner or commissioners to lead the examination, which is intended to be arm’s length from government once it is up and running.

The inquiry leadership will have to consider a number of questions, including whether cold cases need to be revisited, Bennett noted.

“That will be the job of the commissioners — to sort out what they feel they can do about these,” she said.

The process also needs to consider the survivors, she added.

“When we talk about families, we haven’t been focused on the people who know it could have been them, it was almost them, people who ran away from the (Robert) Pickton farm, people who woke up after being strangled,” she said.

The families have also indicated they still want to be involved once the inquiry has started, Bennett added.

Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu said she is no stranger to tragic stories, having worked in Thunder Bay, Ont., where she ran a shelter for men, women and youth.

“Daily, I heard stories like this and witnessed personally, violence,” she said.

She said the pre-inquiry process was also emotional.

“I think that if you are truly doing this job well, you need to be able to bear witness to that pain and you need to be able to empathize without losing yourself in the grief.

“It is a very delicate balance actually … It is our shared responsibility to hear these stories as Canadians.”

One of the most challenging aspects of the pre-inquiry phases has been hearing how hopeful people are about the process, Bennett added.

“In some ways, the hardest part is the hope that a lot of these participants are expressing, that they’re actually talking to people who can make a difference in their lives and the responsibility that we feel,” she said.

“That we have to put the concrete actions in place that will stop this tragedy.”

Claudette Commanda from Ontario’s Kitigan Zibi First Nations reserve attended Monday’s discussions.

Canada must be accountable for racism against aboriginal people, she said.

“That’s the common theme that is coming out of this,” Commanda said.

“The families want justice and the families want healing. But importantly, the families want their voices to be heard for their loved ones because their loved ones are not here to speak.”

Source: http://fw.to/a1SdSYP

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2 thoughts on “Pre-Inquiry Talks End, MMIW ‘Way Bigger’ Than 1,200: Minister

  1. Stylish Stewy/Ask A Flight Attendant

    I attended the Strawberry Ceremony in Toronto on Valentine’s day 2016 and my friends and I were very proud to march with the Indigenous people of Canada, listen to your stories, our hearts and prayers are with you, the negativity is being exposed, and the truth is slowly coming into everyone’s attention more and more. I will continue to follow these issues and there are many many of us who care very much about justice being served, many of us who speak out against any violence towards aboriginal women, and all women! Wish you healing, and the monumental corrections that need to be applied to the system. There are many of us, we are the majority of Canada and the world, that respect and understand the value of our aboriginal people as innocent and wise and stand with you and will support you. Thank you so much and please know you are not alone anymore. Thank you also for the wonderful feast of Three Sisters Soup and Bannock bread after being out in -35 degrees. The room was full of love. I cannot think of a better place to be on that day to honor all of you.

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