Tag Archives: Murdered and Missing

MMIWG Families Slam ‘Colonial’ Inquiry Process, Demand Hard Reset

Marion Buller chief commissioner of national inquiry. (CP)

Relatives, supporters says their concerns have been ignored by commissioners, minister

Dozens of family members, activists and academics have written an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding the “deeply misguided” inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls be scrapped and restarted with a new panel of commissioners.

The coalition says relatives have been shut out of the process and that commissioners are on a path that will not lead to the successful fulfillment of the inquiry’s mandate.

“They have continually dismissed our concerns, refused to take steps to rebuild trust, and have maintained a deeply misguided approach that imposes a harmful, colonial process on us,” the letter reads. “This has and continues to create trauma as well as insecurity and a lack of safety for our families, communities, and loved ones.”

Families wrote a letter complaining about being excluded three months ago, but say their deep-seated concerns were ignored. The letter was used only to pit families against families, the coalition said.

Families and supporters are also accusing Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett of dismissing their concerns.

A statement from the minister’s office said the government remains committed to ending the “ongoing national tragedy,” and that the inquiry’s terms of reference require that families be central to the commission’s work.

After meeting with the commissioners, Bennett was satisfied they had a plan and dedication to address families’ concerns, which will adapt as the inquiry progresses.

‘Immediate action’

The statement said the government is working in the meantime with Inuit, First Nations and Métis partners to honour the lost and to advance reconciliation.

“We’ve taken immediate action with a new gender-based violence strategy, changes to the child and family welfare system for Indigenous children, safe housing, shelters and work with British Columbia towards safe transport on the Highway of Tears,” the statement reads.

The inquiry has been plagued with problems, including staff departures and last month’s resignation by Marilyn Poitras, a Métis professor at the University of Saskatchewan. She cited issues with the “current structure” of the inquiry, which is set to get underway this fall.

But the letter from relatives and supporters says too much damage has been done and too much time has lapsed to rebuild trust now.

Instead of drawing on Indigenous knowledge and practices, the inquiry has been rooted in a colonial model that prioritizes a Eurocentric medical and legal framework, it reads.

“Such an approach is rooted in a broader culture of colonial violence that is inherently exploitative towards Indigenous peoples and causes ongoing trauma and violence for us as families,” the letter says.

Health, legal and community relations team workers for the inquiry are scheduled to be in two Saskatchewan cities this week to meet with families who wish to participate.

The teams are in Regina and Saskatoon to get in contact with families who want to participate in the truth gathering process which will be held in Saskatoon in November.

Source: CBC News

Missing And Murdered Inquiry Will Lack Power To Compel Police Action

Madeline Lanaro, whose 12-year-old daughter Monica Jack was murdered in 1978, wipes away tears after the RCMP announced an arrest in connection to her murder and that of Kathryn-Mary Herbert, during a news conference in Surrey, B.C. December 1, 2014

Madeline Lanaro, whose 12-year-old daughter Monica Jack was murdered in 1978, wipes away tears after the RCMP announced the arrest of Garry Taylor Handlen, in connection to her murder and that of Kathryn-Mary Herbert, during a news conference in Surrey, B.C. Dec 1, 2014.

The Globe and Mail, Jul 21, 2016

The national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women will not have the authority to make findings of police misconduct or compel law-enforcement agencies to reopen cold cases, according to a draft of the terms of reference.

The nine-page document, which the federal government circulated to the provinces and territories for review, says five people will be appointed to the commission, with one individual named chief commissioner.

Sources have told The Globe that the following individuals are on the draft list: B.C. provincial court judge Marion Buller; former Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) president Michèle Audette, who lost her bid to represent the Liberals in a Quebec riding in last fall’s federal election; Qajaq Robinson, a Nunavut-born civil litigation lawyer who speaks Inuktitut; Marilyn Poitras, a Métis law professor at the University of Saskatchewan; and a First Nations lawyer who served on the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Judge Buller, who became B.C.’s first female First Nations judge in 1994, is said to be a contender to lead the commission. The Globe attempted to contact her through the Office of the Chief Judge but the office said it had not been able to reach her.

Ottawa’s self-imposed timeline for the launch of the inquiry has been pushed back on several occasions while the provinces and territories study the proposed terms of reference.

The draft document, which is not dated and is watermarked “sensitive and confidential,” says the commissioners will investigate and report on “systemic causes of violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada, including underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical causes.” The commission, which is mandated to produce interim and final reports, is directed to establish regional advisory bodies comprised of victims’ families and survivors of violence.

Ms. Audette said a government official approached her about a potential appointment to the commission, and said her understanding is that no final decisions have been made. Ms. Robinson declined to comment. Ms. Poitras said she had no information to provide, and the Ontario lawyer could not be reached. Carolyn Campbell, a spokeswoman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, said her office would not comment on the list of potential commissioners or on the terms of reference.

The Liberal government has so far committed $40-million over two years to conduct the inquiry into Canada’s more than 1,181 missing and murdered indigenous women. Sources said Ottawa intends to dedicate further funding to help victims’ relatives navigate the police complaints process if they question the quality of an investigation.

The national inquiry will inevitably review policing – a key reason Ottawa is getting the provinces and territories to sign on to the terms of reference is to ensure matters outside federal jurisdiction, notably child welfare and provincial and municipal policing, are deemed to be squarely within the inquiry’s scope.

However, the draft terms of reference do not explicitly mandate the inquiry to delve into policing policies or practices. And contrary to the hopes of some victims’ relatives and indigenous leaders, the document does not give the commission the power to compel police forces to reopen cold cases, pursue particular investigative avenues or probe an officer’s alleged misconduct. There is no mention of the creation of an independent civilian body that would review specific investigations or police conduct – something NWAC called for in its preinquiry report to the federal government.

Instead, the draft mandate authorizes the commission to pass along to the “appropriate authorities” any information that may be used in the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offence. It also says commissioners can provide authorities with information they believe relates to misconduct. The commission is not authorized to make findings or recommendations of civil or criminal liability.

Several indigenous, feminist and front-line organizations have publicly criticized the draft terms of reference, which were leaked and posted online. A joint statement released Wednesday by various high-profile advocates, including from Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, called the omission of an explicit reference to policing “shocking.” It also lamented the lack of an independent case-review process.

“This appears to be sending families back in a circle, to the same authorities with whom they were/are having problems to start with,” the statement says. “This risks putting the Commissioners in an untenable position as they will appear to be part of the problem, not the solution.”


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.”


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