Tag Archives: MMIW Inquiry

Embattled MMIW inquiry asked for Two-year extension, gets Six more months

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, speaks as she is joined by Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, left, and Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women, during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The commissioners of Canada’s national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls say the government’s decision to extend their work by only six months does a “disservice” to victims, survivors and families.

Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, announced Tuesday that the inquiry — which had requested an extension of two full years — is getting only six more months to complete its hearings and until April 30, 2019, to submit a final report.

“In seeking a two-year extension, we were striking a balance between the urgency of the issues and the need to do this work thoroughly,” chief commissioner Marion Buller said in a statement.

“Now, we believe political expediency has been placed before the safety of Indigenous women, girls and (LGBTQ and two-spirit) people.”

The commission, which has been plagued by chronic delays, staff turnover and complaints from families about disorganization, poor communication and a lack of transparency, was originally supposed to have its final report ready by Nov. 1 of this year.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada warned last month that the ongoing challenges were obscuring the needs of victims and survivors, with the unanswered question of a deadline extension adding to the uncertainty.

Bennett said the decision to extend the mandate by just six months was made in part because provinces and territories were not unanimously supportive of extending the terms of reference for the inquiry into next year.

“In the conversation with provinces and territories it was clear … that we weren’t going to get an extension of the terms of reference from some of them,” Bennett told a news conference.

She called the extension a “creative solution” that allows the terms of reference to be honoured in all of the provinces and the territories, meaning the commission will have to complete its research and witness testimony by Dec. 31.

At least one commissioner served notice Tuesday that she would reconsider her role with the inquiry as a result of the government’s decision.

“I am currently filled with a sentiment of incomprehension and deep disappointment,” Michele Audette said in a statement in French.

“I am giving myself the next few weeks to reflect, to analyze the decision, give my personal opinion and validate my future participation in the work of the national inquiry.”

Bennett would not say which provinces rejected the request to extend the terms of reference, but did indicate there was more than one.

Tuesday’s decision also follows consultations with survivors, families, Indigenous organizations and provinces and territories.

“We found support for giving the inquiry more time to submit its final report, but little support for the commission’s mandate to extend beyond the next election,” Bennett said. There are more survivors and families who want to take part, she added.

“The commissioners will decide how to use this additional time to hear from the remaining families and survivors, further examine institutional practices and policies and undertake the research necessary inform their recommendations on the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.”

After submitting the final report, the commission will have until June 30 of next year to wind down its operations.

A paper bag used to collect the tears of those testifying, to then be burned in a sacred fire, is seen at the final day of hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Richmond, B.C., on Sunday April 8, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Department officials say they will work with the inquiry to determine the budget. The Liberal government had initially earmarked $53.8 million and two years for the inquiry to complete its work.

In March, inquiry officials asked for a two-year extension in order to give commissioners until Dec. 31, 2020, to make recommendations and produce findings.

The inquiry’s interim report, released in November, called for an investigative body to re-open existing cold cases and for an expansion of an existing support program for those who testify.

The government says it will spend $9.6 million over five years to support the RCMP’s new National Investigative Standards and Practices Unit, and will fund a review of police policies and practices regarding their relations with Indigenous Peoples.

An additional $21.3 million will be provided to expand health support provided by the inquiry.

“Together with Indigenous peoples and partners across the country, we continue our collective efforts to help prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls, and protect future generations,” Bennett said.

Source: www.ctvnews.ca

MMIW Inquiry Will Have To Examine Policing, Child Welfare System: Bennett

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett

The “uneven application of justice,” everything from the quality of police searches to investigations, will require a review.

The Canadian Press, July 21, 2016

Policing will require close examination during the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Thursday after questions were raised about a draft copy of the terms of reference.

The “uneven application of justice” — including everything from the quality of police searches to investigations themselves — will require review because outcomes seem to be affected if victims are indigenous women, Bennett told The Canadian Press.

This is precisely why the federal government needs to get provinces and territories, currently reviewing the terms, on side with the inquiry’s mandate because policing and other issues cross jurisdictional boundaries, she said.

“This was the difference between a federal inquiry and a national public inquiry and none of that has changed,” Bennett said.

The minister’s remarks come a day after draft terms of reference for the inquiry were circulated online. They did not explicitly state the need to examine the role of police or their conduct.

Issues with officer behaviour and investigations were raised by families of murdered and missing indigenous women during the government’s pre-inquiry consultation period.

If the inquiry’s commissioners are going to have the capacity to examine police conduct, that should be built into the terms of reference, advocates said Thursday.

“It doesn’t have to be explicit,” said Christa Big Canoe, the legal advocacy director at Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto.

“It just has to be that police investigations are on the table.”

It is one thing for the government to say it will be included but it is another thing to do it, she added.

NDP Status of Women Critic Sheila Malcolmson also believes the draft terms of reference fall short.

“It is critical that consultations with indigenous families and communities affected be central to drafting the terms of reference,” she said in a statement.

The federal government plans to discuss the mandate of the inquiry with the families before it is made public, Bennett said.

“They know that a representative group of them will be invited to come to Ottawa on the day prior to the launch where they will walk through the final terms of reference and the commissioners,” she said.

An announcement is expected soon but a date has not been publicized.

Child welfare will also be a key theme, Bennett said, noting the government has repeatedly heard about the “devastating” impact on children who are apprehended and what often happens to their mothers.

“There’s no question that stories around the child welfare system from Tina Fontaine to so many of the other cases … we know the commission will have to deal with this and the differences in all of the jurisdictions,” she said.

“The federal government, even though we are a funder of the child welfare system, we also have to be accountable for the results and children are being apprehended such that there’s more kids in care than at the height of residential schools.”

The federal government is currently engaged in a lengthy back and forth with The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal over its commitment to fund child welfare services on reserve.

In January, the tribunal ruled the federal government discriminated against First Nations children in its funding of child welfare services.

Bennett has repeatedly said the government is committed to overhauling the system.

Cindy Blackstock, a social worker who spent nine years on the case that resulted in the tribunal’s ruling, believes the government is still racially discriminating against aboriginal children in its delivery of services on reserves.

A key issue is $71 million the government earmarked in this year’s budget for child welfare — a figure far from sufficient, Blackstock says, pegging the actual need at around $200 million.


Manitoba Chief Says MMIW Inquiry Terms Of Reference Falls Short On Policing, Child Welfare


By Dennis Ward and Kenneth Jackson | APTN News, July 19, 2016

A chief in Manitoba says she’s seen the terms of reference of the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry and believes they fall short when it comes to policing and child welfare.

MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said one of things she’d heard from almost every single family member is the issue of policing and the lack of respect families say they’ve received.

“There’s nothing specific in the terms of reference (TOR) that deal with the role of police agencies across this country on this issue,” said North Wilson.

North Wilson said the TOR don’t go far enough “in scope to look at the effects indifferent or ineffective policing has had on the families of (MMIW).”

North Wilson said the TOR also falls short on Indigenous children in care of provinces, which is nearly 90 per cent in Manitoba, or about 9,000.

North Wilson was part of a group of chiefs’ organizations that met with province of Manitoba province Tuesday.

Chiefs in Manitoba met with Manitoba’s Indigenous Affairs and Justice ministers Tuesday to find out why Manitoba is holding up the inquiry.

The new provincial government has been blamed for not wanting to sign off on the terms of reference and wanting a commissioner from Manitoba to be named to the inquiry.

“It shouldn’t be a deal breaker,” said North Wilson. “We shouldn’t hold up the process if we don’t have a Manitoban appointed as one of the five commissioners.”

Families were told there was supposed to be an announcement on July 6 until Manitoba said they didn’t agree to TOR.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett told APTN last week that before the inquiry can be announced all provinces and territories have to sign off on the TOR and commissioners, which was believed to be five. It’s not known if that number has changed since Manitoba’s demands. It is also unknown if Manitoba is the only province holding up the process.

But for families the question remains, if the provinces were not on board, why did INAC promise families the announcement was good to go for July 6?

“We should be informed. (Bennett) says ‘families first’ but we are not first,” said Laurie Odjick, whose daughter Maisy, 16, went vanished in 2008 with her friend Shannon Alexander, 17, from Kitigan Zibi First Nation about an hour north of Ottawa. “We need to be involved. No one is helping us. These politicians need to be held to their promises.”


Provinces Won’t Have To Shoulder Costs Of MMIW Inquiry, Federal Minister Says

'We are reassuring provinces there will be no costs to the provinces'

‘We are reassuring provinces there will be no costs to the provinces’

Federal government ‘very close’ to launching inquiry, Carolyn Bennett says

By Katharine Starr, CBC News Posted: Jul 12, 2016

The federal government is reassuring the provinces that when it comes to a national inquiry on murdered and missing indigenous women, they won’t have to foot the bill.

“I think there was some misunderstanding, but I think we are almost there in terms of getting the assurances out there that this is going to be done in co-operation,” said Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett in an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

The Liberal government’s spring federal budget pegged the cost of a full national public inquiry at $40 million over two years starting in 2016.

Bennett told First Nations chiefs at their 37th annual general assembly Tuesday that the government is “very close” to announcing the launch of the inquiry, a campaign promise made by the Liberals last year.

But before a national inquiry can begin, all provinces and territories must be on board.

Some provincial and territorial governments have had questions and concerns about their roles and responsibilities in the inquiry, including who was going to cover the cost of travel and other support for families and whether legal representation would be required.

Confusion over terms of reference

Bennett confirmed that “different provinces had different understandings” of what the terms of reference will be.

“I think we are reassuring provinces that there will be no costs to the provinces,” Bennett told Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton.

AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde signs an accord with Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous affairs and northern development, during the AFN general assembly on Tuesday. (Chris Glover/CBC)

“It really is just co-operation around documents, around witnesses. It’s just about us now getting that all pinned down so that we can launch in a timely fashion.”

The provinces and territories will still have a critical role to play in the inquiry, Bennett added.

“We’ll still need the provinces to help with the healing and wellness piece, and to make sure these families are dealt with in a compassionate, culturally safe way,” she said.

“But that’s a shared responsibility, and we are very, very heartened by the co-operation that’s out there now.”


Ottawa To Make MMIW Inquiry’ Announcement On Tuesday

Announcement about missing, murdered women inquiry coming Tuesday

Announcement about missing, murdered women inquiry coming Tuesday

Ottawa To Make MMIW Announcement 

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is scheduled to make an announcement Tuesday on the subject of a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

According to CTV NewsBennett will be flanked by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu.

Following the announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to address a group of First Nations leaders who have gathered in Ottawa.

Bennett said earlier last week that the government plans to launch pre-inquiry consultations, with the victims’ families and other stakeholders, in the near future.

She indicated that the consultation is vital to address core issues related to the inquiry, such as its design, the amount of commissioners, the length, the number of families involved and the terms of reference.

Bennett has said that she hopes to model the government’s approach after the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which included a consultation process.

The Liberals have promised to spend $40 million on the inquiry, which is expected to be rolled out in the spring of 2016.

Calls for a national inquiry into the issue have been growing since an RCMP review last year found that 1,181 indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing since 1980 — 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims.