Draft copy of terms of reference directs commissioners not to interfere with ongoing criminal probes
By Connie Walker, CBC News Posted: Jul 20, 2016
The upcoming national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women will focus on violence prevention, according to a draft document obtained by CBC News.
A draft of the terms of reference says commissioners will be given the broad mandate to identify systemic causes of violence and recommend “concrete action” to help end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Five commissioners, including a chief commissioner, will be named, but the document does not identify them. The draft also does not include specifics about timing or length of inquiry.
Similar to the recent Truth and Reconciliation commission, the inquiry — it’s start date has yet to be specified — will aim to hear from the people directly affected.
Commissioners will be given a mandate to support the inclusion of “any person having substantial interest” in the process.
It will travel to Indigenous communities across the country to gather statements in what is described as an “informal” and “culturally sensitive” probe.
Testimony from community members and families of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls appears to be central to process of identifying causes contributing to the disproportionate rates of violence experienced by Aboriginal women in Canada.
Probe into police conduct not specified
In the government’s pre-inquiry consultations in 17 communities earlier this year, families of the more than 1,200 missing or murdered indigenous women were given the opportunity to share their opinions.
Families urged the government to choose an Indigenous woman to lead the inquiry and to focus on identifying root causes.
At every consultation, the ministers were urged to look into police conduct and practices during criminal investigations of missing or murdered women. Some families alleged discrimination or misconduct by police during pre-inquiry consultations.
Many of the recommendations from families and stakeholders appear to have shaped the mandate of the inquiry.
But while the role of police or police conduct was flagged as something that should be a priority for examination during the inquiry, in the draft document, there is no specific directive to look into that.
The document also directs commissioners not to interfere with ongoing criminal investigations and discourages them from recommending civil or criminal liability of a person or organization.
Commissioners are encouraged to give weight to previous studies such as the TRC final report, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, as well as five other reports specifically relating to violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Inquiry details delayed
Details about the scope and mandate of the national inquiry has been long anticipated by families of victims.
The Liberal government announced Phase 1 of a national inquiry shortly after it took office last December.
In June, Status of Women Minister Patty Hadju told CBC News the government was “very close” to making an announcement about Phase 2 of the national inquiry.
“I think Canadians can be confident that, before the House rises, we’ll have something to tell them about how this is going to look.”
Five weeks later, families of missing and murdered women are still waiting for official confirmation of next steps of the inquiry.
Ottawa is in ongoing negotiations with the provinces and territories about terms of reference.
The federal budget has committed $40 million over two years for the inquiry.
Draft Terms of Reference for MMIW Inquiry