MMIW Commission Won’t Hear Testimony from Families Until Spring 2017

This painting by artist Dave Fadden, called Scream of the Silenced, is a mosaic of tiny intricate designs, representing the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

This painting by artist Dave Fadden, called Scream of the Silenced, is a mosaic of tiny intricate designs, representing the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Families ‘in the dark’ 3 months after inquiry into missing and murdered women launched, advocate says

By Nicole Ireland, CBC News Posted: Dec 04, 2016

Three months after the official launch of the long-awaited inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, a spokesman says the commissioners won’t start hearing formal testimony from the families until the spring of 2017.

“It is important that we take the time to put necessary support systems in place, such as hiring staff and creating outreach plans, before formally beginning the inquiry process this spring,” said Michael Hutchinson, the commission’s recently appointed director of communications, in an email to CBC News.

The independent inquiry led by five commissioners formally began on Sept. 1. The federal government directed the commission to find out why hundreds of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women have disappeared or been murdered in Canada.

Its mandate includes making recommendations on how to remove systemic causes of violence and increase safety for Indigenous women and girls, as well as honouring those who have been killed or gone missing. The commission’s final report is due Nov. 1, 2018.

But Indigenous women’s advocates, initially relieved that their repeated calls for an inquiry had finally been heeded, say the families of missing and murdered women and girls have been “left in the dark” for the last three months.

From left, commissioners Marion Buller, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, Michele Audette and Brian Eyolfson listen during the launch of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Sept. 1. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

From left, commissioners Marion Buller, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, Michele Audette and Brian Eyolfson listen during the launch of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Sept. 1. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

“It’s very emotional for these families to figure out what’s going on,” said Francyne Joe, interim president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC). “There’s been very, very limited movement forward.”

The testimony of survivors and families will be central to the inquiry’s work. But families haven’t been able to prepare themselves for the difficult task of telling their stories, Joe said, because they don’t know whether it will be a matter of weeks or months before they are called to testify.

Joe, who is from British Columbia, said an Indigenous women’s advocate in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has asked her to come and meet with families who are upset to the point that they’re talking about not taking part in the inquiry at all.

For years, families who have lost women and girls they love have come to NWAC for help, Joe said, and she hopes she’ll be able to help alleviate their concerns.

“I think as each week passes by, they’re feeling more and more disengaged,” she said. “This needs to be a transparent process.”

“We want to work with the commissioners. We want to make sure that this succeeds.”

Commission understands anxiety

After three months, the MMIW commission still doesn’t have a website for families wanting to find out more information on how to participate in the inquiry.

A government of Canada website provides some basic information and lists a toll-free crisis line people can call if they are dealing with trauma associated with missing and murdered Indigenous women. That website also states that the inquiry “is independent from the federal government” and that “contact information for the inquiry will be posted as soon as it is available.”

An MMIW inquiry website and “social channels” will be ready “within the next several weeks,” Hutchinson said.

Francyne Joe

Francyne Joe, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, says families of missing and murdered Indigenous women want the commission to let them know ‘what’s going on, when is it going on, what do I need to do?’ (Native Women’s Association of Canada )

Since September, the commission has been building its infrastructure and hiring staff, as well as “designing a trauma informed process to receive the statements and testimonies of the survivors and families,” a separate statement attributed to the inquiry commissioners said. “In addition, the commission is working toward the inclusion of Indigenous protocols and practices within its hearing process.”

Joe understands that it takes time to hire staff, including Indigenous counsellors and people to manage the information that will be collected throughout the inquiry. But Indigenous organizations were led to believe that consultations with families would start in January, she said, and she wishes they had been provided with “an honest timeline” from the beginning that they, in turn, could share with affected families.

“[It would have] lessened the amount of stress,” Joe said. “Families would feel more optimistic as to how things are going at this point.”

The national organization representing Inuit women, Pauktuutit, also expressed concern in October about a lack of information coming from the MMIW inquiry.

Commissioners have since started holding biweekly conference calls with Pauktuutit, NWAC and other Indigenous organizations to try to improve communication.

“We feel a bit better about being informed,” Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit, told CBC.

Rebecca Kudloo

‘We want this inquiry to be meaningful for Inuit, especially for the families,’ says Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. (Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada)

“We have promised the families of the murdered and missing that Pauktuutit will keep them updated as to what will happen with the inquiry,” she said. “We’re trying our very best.”

The commissioners recognize people’s frustration, but insist the time they’re taking to get things done is necessary.

“The commission understands that the survivors and families are anxious to have an opportunity to be heard,” according to its statement. “Towards that end, the commission is committed to designing a process which will respect the survivors, families, and all those who need to be heard and will promote reconciliation and healing across the country.”

Joe and Kudloo agree it’s critical the commission has culturally appropriate emotional support in place before, during and after those meetings.

“We don’t want the commission coming in, opening wounds and leaving,” said Kudloo.

But Joe said she believes it’s possible “to move forward faster, but still effectively.”

“This isn’t the first time the government has had an inquiry or a commission,” she said. “I mean, we want to make sure that the right supports are in place. But they knew this [before].”

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.


Provinces Studying Terms Of Reference For Inquiry On Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women


Dresses overlook the makeshift memorial for slain teen Tina Fontaine. Sean Leslie/Global News

Federal government and provinces engaged in back-and-forth about role provincial governments will play in national inquiry

By Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press, Updated: Jun 29, 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the one who promised a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, but the provinces still need to sign off on the details.

The recommendations that came out of the Liberal government’s consultations earlier this year were clear: the upcoming national inquiry should have the authority to make recommendations within provincial and territorial jurisdictions as part of a larger attempt to tackle what the inquiry will determine are the root causes of the issue.

That authority does not come automatically, however, which is why officials at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada are having some back-and-forth discussions with the provinces and territories over the terms of reference, which sources said the federal government proposed in early June.

The feds gave provincial governments only a few weeks to discuss and approve their own orders-in-council — potentially turning over the provincial books on everything from policing to child welfare services — in time to launch the second phase of the inquiry by the end of this month as originally planned.

Provinces have concerns

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

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the proposed terms of reference “were fairly vague”, leaving the province with unanswered questions about an inquiry her government is otherwise eager to support.

“We think it’s really important, but we do think it’s important to know precisely what it is we are going to be doing,” Ganley said in an interview.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett was not available for an interview and her office did not comment in time for publication.

Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson says her province supports the inquiry, but worries they will go over topics already covered under provincial inquiries. (CBC News)

Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson says her province supports the inquiry, but worries they will go over topics already covered under provincial inquiries. (CBC News)

Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said her province supports a national inquiry, but is still in talks with the federal government over the terms of reference.

Stefanson said it is too early to go into details, but suggested Manitoba might have some reservations about how much a national inquiry would delve into its child welfare system, particularly if it treads ground already covered by the provincial auditor general and the inquiry into the 2005 murder of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

“We just want to make sure there is not overlap and duplication as far as Manitoba is concerned,” she said in an interview.

If Ottawa does push for those areas to be examined, Stefanson said they should be prepared to pick up the tab.

“It’s a national inquiry and if they want to look at the costs associated with that, then that’s up to them,” she said.

Others told The Canadian Press they want recognition of special circumstances.

Quebec, for example, said it wants the inquiry to take into account what has happened since Radio-Canada reported allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Surete de Quebec police force against Indigenous women in Val d’Or, as well as the linguistic reality of French-speaking Indigenous communities in the province.

Nunavut wants the inquiry to include a specific focus on Inuit women, as well as the fact that the majority of its cases involve domestic violence.

Provincial buy-in essential: Shelagh Day

Organizations that have long pushed for a national inquiry have stressed the importance of getting the provinces and territories on board.

Shelagh Day of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action said getting buy-in from the provinces is essential to the success of the inquiry.

“The national inquiry can’t do the work that Indigenous women need it to do unless the provinces and territories have bought in in such a way that their policies and practices and programs and policing in provincial and territorial regions can also be scrutinized,” said Day, whose organization is part of the coalition.

“This is a fundamental issue. We have to have them in. Otherwise, we don’t have a national inquiry, we have a federal inquiry, which is very limited,” she said.

Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, suggested the inquiry might be open to a creative compromise when it comes to areas particular provinces feel they have already adequately addressed, such as the child welfare system in Manitoba.

“If there are areas where the other inquiry looked into something and can be submitted as evidence, then there shouldn’t need to be concern about overlap,” Lavell-Harvard said.


Ottawa Releases Pre-Inquiry Report On MMIW



The federal government has quietly released a series of recommendations from its pre-inquiry consultations with friends and family of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The report was release late Friday with no press release.

According to the report, there were 17 meetings involving 2,000 friends and family across the country, with Indigenous organizations, provincial and territorial leaders, Indigenous leaders, scholars and legal experts.

The government also accepted comments via an online forum and survey.

“The face-to-face meetings provided the government a chance to hear directly from survivors, and families and loved ones of murdered or missing women and girls,” according to the report posted online. “Participants were provided with cultural, spiritual and religious support. Elders were also on hand to provide ceremony and counsel. Also, health support workers were available to provide additional cultural and emotional support.”

According to the report, the government heard:

The leadership should represent Indigenous communities and regions. It should also have a timetable that is sensitive to the needs of survivors, families and loved ones. Efforts must be made to avoid a long, drawn-out and legal process.

The inquiry should include as many individuals and organizations as possible including survivors, families and loved ones, national Indigenous organizations, front-line workers, and Indigenous community leaders and organizations.

It should also respect different points of view.

The inquiry should take a broad approach to its analysis of the issues. It should look at the economic, cultural, political and social causes of violence against women, girls and trans and two-spirit people.

It should also look at the causes of unequal and unjust treatment of Indigenous women, girls and trans and two-spirit people and recommend solutions to the causes of violence.

The inquiry should provide a variety of cultural, spiritual and religious supports and ceremonies. The ceremonies should reflect the diversity of all participants and regions and be supported by elders.

As well, it will be critical to have professional mental health counselling and community-based health supports. Professional and culturally-sensitive counselling will be needed if the inquiry is to be effective and avoid causing further trauma.

What isn’t clear is when the inquiry will start. When it was announced, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she wanted it officially announced before the House of Commons recessed for the summer.

That is towards the end of June.

AFN Chief Apologizes To Anna Mae Aquash’s Daughter Over Leonard Peltier Statement

Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.

Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.

Bellegarde Apologizes To Anna Mae Aquash’s Daughter Over Statement About Leonard Peltier

According to APTN News Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said he’s sorry for the pain caused to the daughter of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash by his recent call for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring up the case of imprisoned American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Leonard Peltier, with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Aquash’s daughter Denise Maloney Pictou released a statement expressing outrage over Bellegarde’s statement in support of Peltier. Pictou believes Peltier protected Aquash’s killers and was involved in events that led to her death.

“Our family and community are heartsick about this,” said Pictou, in the statement. “It was our hope that a (murdered and missing Indigenous women) inquiry would mean healing and continued justice for our MMIW families, this conflict and contradiction has thrown salt back into the wounds.”

Bellegarde told CBC News last week, he’d like to see Trudeau to bring up the Peltier case during a Washington D.C. visit.


Bellegarde said he was sorry for hurting the family and that he is planning on speaking with Pictou.

“I regret that my statement caused some hurt and pain and I apologize for the pain I caused her and her family,” said Bellegarde. “That wasn’t my intent.”

Bellegarde said he still would like to see Peltier freed. He said the case is a separate issue from AIM’s execution of Aquash.

“I called for that (Peltier’s release) because there is an injustice there,” said Bellegarde. “So I will continue to advocate for that.”

Bellegarde said two previous AFN national chiefs have made the same call which is also backed by Amnesty International and prominent individuals like the Dalai Lama.

Peltier was extradited from Canada to the U.S. in December 1976. He was eventually convicted in connection with the killing of two F.B.I. agents who were gunned down during a 1975 a shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Aquash’s daughter said in the statement that Peltier interrogated Aquash at gunpoint and knew who was behind her killing.

Former AIM members Arlo Looking Cloud and John Graham were convicted of killing Aquash. U.S. authorities believe the two men were likely acting on orders that came from the AIM hierarchy which believed Aquash was an informant.

[Full Story]

‘You Can Do Better’: Indigenous Teen Calls On Winnipeg Police To Make MMIW A Priority

"And if I do go missing and my body is found, please tell my mom you are sorry. Tell her I asked to be buried in my red dress, for I will have become just another native statistic," Brianna Jonnie, 14, wrote in a letter to Winnipeg Police Service chief Devon Clunis. (CBC)

“And if I do go missing and my body is found, please tell my mom you are sorry. Tell her I asked to be buried in my red dress, for I will have become just another native statistic,” Brianna Jonnie, 14, wrote in a letter to Winnipeg Police Service chief Devon Clunis. (CBC)

CBC News Posted: Mar 06, 2016

Brianna Jonnie, 14, writes missing and murdered indigenous girls and women are not important to police

An indigenous girl in Winnipeg has a message for police chief Devon Clunis: You can do better.

Brianna Jonnie, 14, wrote it in a letter addressed to Clunis, a number of government officials and members of local media. In it, she describes observing cases of non-indigenous missing persons treated differently than those involving indigenous girls and women.

She used the recent disappearance and subsequent death of Cooper Nemeth as an example.

“Deputy Chief Danny Smyth conducted himself in a most respectful manner when disclosing Cooper had been found deceased and drugs were involved,” Jonnie wrote.

“I have noticed missing indigenous girls are not afforded the same courtesies — by the community, the media or the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS).”

While Jonnie identifies herself as indigenous in the letter, she specifies she does not fit demeaning descriptions mainstream media have assigned to missing and murdered indigenous girls and women in the past — often to their loved ones’ dismay.

“I am not involved in drugs, alcohol, prostitution, or other illegal activity,” the letter reads.

“I am not a runaway, nor am I involved with Child & Family Services.”

Jonnie's letter outlines specific instructions for Clunis to follow should she disappear from Winnipeg's streets. (CBC)

Jonnie’s letter outlines specific instructions for Clunis to follow should she disappear from Winnipeg’s streets. (CBC)

Acknowledging that her identity elevates her risk of encountering violence, Jonnie outlines instructions for Clunis to follow if she goes missing.

“Provide details that humanize me, not just the colour of my hair, my height and my ethnicity,” she wrote.

“If I go missing and the WPS has not changed the behaviours I have brought to your attention, I beg of you, do not treat me as the indigenous person I am proud to be.”

On Sunday, Jonnie said she started noticing what she believed were discrepancies in police reactions to indigenous and non-indigenous missing persons cases about two years ago.

“It was heartbreaking,” she said.

She said she was surprised to find out Clunis is willing to meet with her and that reaction from the WPS and media has made her feel hopeful; as though change may be on the horizon.

“In the future I’d encourage people to not look at who the person that went missing might have been, I’d want them to look at just, ‘This is a person, they went missing and we need to look for them,'” she said.

Her mother, Amanda McCormick, said she encouraged her to write the letter.

“Maybe after reading her letter … maybe people will start to speak differently when they hear of an indigenous girl who’s missing, and they won’t just recognize her as indigenous; and they won’t just recognize her as another runaway. They’ll recognize her as human,” she said.

‘We need to do a better job’

Speaking on behalf of the Winnipeg Police Service, Const. Jason Michalyshen said the letter reminded the force that they must do a better job educating the public about why investigations unfold the way they do.

The first step in that process is having Jonnie meet with the missing persons unit, which will take place in the coming days, according to Michalyshen.

Const. Jason Michalyshen said Jonnie's letter reminded the force they must do a better job of educating the public about why investigations unfold the way they do. (CBC)

Const. Jason Michalyshen said Jonnie’s letter reminded the force they must do a better job of educating the public about why investigations unfold the way they do. (CBC)

A meeting with Clunis is in the works, too, he said, and it could happen as early as this week.

In the letter, Jonnie drew comparisons between the length of time it takes the WPS to send out a public notice about a missing non-indigenous person and a missing indigenous person.

“Tina Fontaine was reported missing on August 9, 2014. According to media, a WPS request for the public’s help was submitted August 13th. Nora Leah Rae was reported missing on August 6, 2014 and the WPS appealed for help on August 22nd. Jaylene Amos was reported missing on January 4, 2016 and a request for help was issued on January 15th,” she wrote.

“Cooper Nemeth however, had his image in the paper the next day; Thelma Krull was in online reports less than 24 hours after her disappearance and Alissa Voetberg, the next day.”

But Michalyshen said the time it takes for police to send a missing person’s notice does not indicate whether the case is a priority.

“News releases should not be a gage of importance,” he said, calling it a matter of “perception.”

“The consensus is we need to do a better job of educating and providing a better and more accurate perception with respect to why investigations unfold the way they do.”

He acknowledged, however, Jonnie’s letter raised questions that must be answered.

“It was incredibly well written,” he said.

“A very compelling letter from a 14-year-old girl.”


MMIW Roundtable Hears Clear Message From Families Seeking Immediate Change


A memorial sits in the centre of a room hosting the national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in Winnipeg. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

CBC News Posted: Feb 26, 2016

Large number of indigenous children in government care is a major concern

As the national roundtable into missing and murdered indigenous women concluded in Winnipeg on Friday, the message from families has been “loud and clear,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says.

Changes are needed to how aboriginal people access mental health and addictions services, she said.

Significant improvement is also needed in education — both for indigenous people and in schools where the history and culture of First Nations are taught — and in policing, the criminal justice system and child welfare, Bennett said.

The fact that so many indigenous children are in government care today — more than at the height of the residential schools era — was one of the issues that came up many times, she added.

Carolyn Bennett

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says families don’t want to wait for an inquiry to be over before action is taken. (CBC)

“All of these things are something we heard very, very clearly yesterday,” Bennett said, explaining that Thursday’s roundtable was about government leaders and national aboriginal organizations listening to the concerns of families.

Friday’s agenda focused on talking and finding solutions. Federal, provincial, territorial and indigenous leaders have agreed to co-operate and support a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

Bennett said the commitment means the inquiry will be able to delve into provincial areas such as child welfare and policing.

“Without the formal co-operation of the provinces and territories, we could only launch a federal public inquiry that would look into federal issues in federal jurisdiction,” she said earlier in the day.

“We want to make sure we have their full support in designing a national public inquiry, because we don’t believe that a federal public inquiry can do the job.”

The governments also committed in broad terms to improving social and economic conditions for indigenous people.

In terms of child welfare, Bennett praised the move by some provinces, including Manitoba, to adopt a customary-care approach, which allows foster children to be placed with relatives or families in the same community and cared for according to traditional customs, rather than be sent away to non-aboriginal families.

That same kind of commitment to change is needed from all provinces and territories to make substantive changes to the other issues, Bennett said, noting those regional governments have jurisdiction on policing and treatment programs.

Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said the meeting was historic because all governments have committed to addressing key issues.

Details of the national inquiry, such as the scope, the cost and who will lead it have yet to be worked out.

Bennett joins vigil for slain Winnipeg woman

Bennett, who was with a crowd that marched in Winnipeg last night as part of a vigil for slain aboriginal woman Marilyn Rose Munroe, said changes to address the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women must be undertaken even before a national inquiry is complete.

“[There are] certain things the families … expect us to get on with it now, because this is still happening. People don’t want to wait until the end of the commission to get going on things,” she said.

Bennett is “very keen” to develop a plan to address housing, education and other changes necessary in child welfare and policing that don’t have to wait until the end of an inquiry.

Carolyn Bennett

Carolyn Bennett joins Sue Caribou at Thursday’s vigil for Marilyn Rose Munroe in Winnipeg. Caribou’s niece Tanya Nepinak disappeared in September 2011 after leaving her Winnipeg home to walk to a pizza restaurant a few blocks away. (Courtesy Cheryl James)

National MMIW Roundtable Starts In Winnipeg, Days After Aboriginal Woman Killed

Missing and murdered (CBC)

Missing and murdered (CBC)

CBC News,  Feb 25, 2016 

Just a few days after another homicide of an aboriginal woman in Winnipeg, Canada’s leaders and families of murdered and missing women will meet in the city to look for solutions.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is hosting the second national roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), a gathering of provincial and territorial premiers, federal ministers, national indigenous leaders, and MMIW families.

The roundtable began Wednesday with a day-long, closed-door session for families only. The meetings on Thursday and Friday will bring everyone together.

Marilyn Rose Munroe

The body of Marilyn Rose Munroe, 41, was found in a Pritchard Avenue house on Monday. Police have deemed her death a homicide but have not yet said how she died. (Facebook)

Nahanni Fontaine, Manitoba’s special advisor on aboriginal women’s issues, believes there has been a shift in attitudes since the Liberals replaced the Conservatives as Canada’s government and is confident some solutions to the MMIW problem can be found.

In a 2014 report, the RCMP estimated 1,181 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in the country since 1980 — 164 are missing, 1,017 were homicides.

Of the five homicides in Winnipeg so far in 2016, three have been aboriginal women. Marilyn Rose Munroe, 41, was the most recent victim, after her body was found in a house on Pritchard Avenue on Monday.

“What we’ve experienced in the last two months is just a stark reminder and example of what goes on across the country and why you know the second national roundtable is so important … for us to meet and to look at what we need to be doing in the immediate right now,” Fontaine said.

Both she and federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett — who came through the city earlier this month as part of her pre-MMIW inquiry tour — have called Winnipeg Ground Zero in the national awareness. The death of Tina Fontaine and the near-death of Rinelle Harper propelled the MMIW issue into a wider spotlight, Bennet said.

Bennett’s tour and acknowledgement of the MMIW issue is proof that Canada is on the cusp of finally dealing with the matter, Fontaine said.

“If there was ever an opportunity for change, it is absolutely right now,” she said.

Meetings in Winnipeg with families of MMIW victims will be difficult, but an important way to find solutions, Fontaine added.

“In some respects [it can] re-traumatize them, that’s the nature of this issue. I often talk about family strength and resiliency and courage to constantly be called upon to share their journeys and stories and they do it,” she said, adding
there are plenty of supports on-hand for the families during the meetings.

Premiers, ministers and indigenous leaders will meet with the media at noon to update the roundtable discussions so far.

Beyond The Inquiry: Families Of MMIW Want Action

Lorelei Williams left the first roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in tears after families who had lost loved ones fought to be one of the four people allowed to speak.

Lorelei Williams left the first roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in tears after families who had lost loved ones fought to be one of the four people allowed to speak.


Lorelei Williams left the first roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women in tears after family members who had lost loved ones fought to be one of four people allowed to speak.

The British Columbia woman, whose aunt disappeared in 1978 and whose cousin’s remains were found on the farm of convicted killer Robert Pickton, says she felt revictimized by the experience.

Williams hopes it will be different when premiers, federal and provincial ministers gather again for a second roundtable in Winnipeg. Leaders need to listen more carefully to voices like hers and do what they can to address the issue in their own jurisdictions, she says.

“Once they get to know the families and what it does to them, I feel like (they) can fight a better battle,” she said Tuesday. “There is a lot of racism that has flawed cases and that needs to be addressed.”

Beverley Jacobs, whose cousin was killed in 2008, was one of the four people who spoke at the first roundtable. She said the experience was horrible.

She isn’t attending this roundtable, but said she hopes provincial leaders use it to look at addressing poverty, affordable housing, community safety and the disproportionate number of indigenous children in care.

“These are all issues that impact indigenous women,” said Jacobs, the lead researcher on Amnesty International’s report on missing and murdered indigenous women.

The roundtable begins Wednesday with a day-long, closed-door session for families only. It’s to be followed by two days of meetings with premiers, ministers, indigenous leaders and families.

A lot has changed since the last roundtable a year ago when calls for a national inquiry loomed large. The Conservatives, who steadfastly refused to call one, lost the fall federal election to the Liberals, who have promised to convene one this year.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said an inquiry is one way to address violence against indigenous women, but provinces can also do more.

She announced Tuesday that her government is spending $100 million over the next three years on a long-term anti-violence strategy, most of it to support indigenous families.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the provinces each have a list of projects to be discussed and prioritized. They include engaging indigenous men in anti-violence campaigns and improving access to emergency shelters.

“There is quite a bit of motivation in the room to follow up on these things.”

For federal ministers, the roundtable is a chance to consult provincial leaders about the inquiry. Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has toured the country to hear from family members about what the inquiry should look like. She said she hopes the roundtable will be a chance to get the provinces and territories on board.

“It’s going to be a good discussion. I’m looking forward to it.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she hopes to get ideas on what action can be taken immediately.

“There obviously are some things we could be doing together right now,” she said. “There is optimism from the families, but also the provinces and territories, that we’re finally going to get to work together with the federal government on a real plan.”

The RCMP has estimated at least 1,200 indigenous women have disappeared or been murdered since 1980. Although indigenous women make up 4.3% of the Canadian population, they account for 16% of female homicides and 11.3% of missing women.

— With files from Kristy Kirkup in Ottawa and Allison Jones in Toronto

Military Considered Valentine’s Day MMIW Vigils Source Of Potential ‘Extremism’


By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News|

Military’s counter-intelligence unit considered Valentine’s Day MMIW vigils source of potential ‘extremism’

The Canadian military’s counter-intelligence unit considered the yearly Valentine’s Day vigils for murdered and missing Indigenous women as a potential source for “extremism” and “civil unrest,” according to a document released to APTN National News.

The heavily redacted, seven-page counterintelligence report compiled by the Canadian Forces National Counterintelligence Unit was obtained under the Access to Information Act.

The Threat information Collection report focused on a time frame from Jan. 6 to Feb. 5, 2015, included Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta as its geographical coverage area and used information from 27 sources.

The report was compiled “in support of a Threat Assessment” required for an event or issue that is redacted from the document.

Much of the report is redacted, except for a section referencing the Islamic State terror network in a section on terrorism, Akwesasne under a section referencing “criminal activity” and the Valentine’s Day murdered and missing Indigenous women vigils held yearly across the country.

The vigils are mentioned third in a five item list under the heading, “Interference/Extremism/Civil Unrest.”

It’s unclear why the vigils were included in the list as any potential explanation appears to be redacted. The unredacted portion, however, states that these vigils have never been a source of civil unrest or extremism.

“(Feb. 14) has become a day to hold peaceful rallies and vigils to draw attention to violence against women, in some cases specifically violence against Aboriginal women,” said the report. “These events have been held for 24 years consecutively and have never been an issue.”

The rest of the section is censored.

CF National Counter Intelligence Unit report


Download (PDF, 112KB)

Read a related report on military surveillance of Akwesasne