Tag Archives: MMIW

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]