Tag Archives: Public Inquiry

Is Canada Prepared For What A Missing Women Inquiry Might Reveal?

A photograph of Summer "CJ" Morningstar Fowler, of the Gitanmaax First Nation near Hazelton, B.C., is displayed as her mother Matilda Fowler weeps during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday December 12, 2012. The body of her daughter was found in Kamloops December 5. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A photograph of Summer “CJ” Morningstar Fowler, of the Gitanmaax First Nation near Hazelton, B.C., is displayed as her mother Matilda Fowler weeps during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday December 12, 2012. The body of her daughter was found in Kamloops December 5. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

By Jeff Sallot | iPolitics.ca‎ 

The stars are aligned and the moment is now to launch what could be the new Liberal government’s first important act of national healing — a public inquiry into the cases of more 1,200 murdered and missing indigenous women.

Justin Trudeau promised such an investigation during the election. He pledged to spend $40-million over two years on an inquiry into “root causes.”

Racism and sexism are almost certainly the deepest taproots of the problem; you can’t doubt they need to be exposed to daylight by a public inquiry. But beyond exposing those root causes, it’s not too much to hope that fresh and thorough investigations could actually solve some of these cold cases.

Momentum for an inquiry got a nudge last month when many indigenous people decided to get involved in the political process by voting in a federal election for the first time. These new voters now need to see that politics can matter to their families and communities.

Canada’s First Nations were never part of the political calculus of Stephen Harper and his Tories. Harper scoffed at the idea of an inquiry when he was the prime minister. But now — wonder of all wonders — the new Conservative leadership in the House is on board.

Interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose, a former minister responsible for the status of women, has found her voice and is now expressing support and promising co-operation.

Compassion is in vogue again in Ottawa. But even with the best of intentions, the new government could find itself bogged down by systemic inertia. Beware the federal lawyers. Beware the RCMP. They are the bog people.

Given half a chance, the lawyers in the Justice department will write the most restrictive terms of reference for the inquiry. They’ll spend months drafting and redrafting a lengthy document larded with legalize that will confound the public and limit the inquiry’s scope. Federal government lawyers are the high priests of the secrecy cult that became the state religion under the Harper government. History suggests that this inquiry will be a success only if it is as open and public as possible.

Consider the federal commissions of inquiry held over the past decade into how federal officials dealt with the cases of Muslim Canadian men who were tortured in prisons in the Middle East on the basis of misinformation originating in Ottawa.

The first inquiry — into the case of Maher Arar — was created by the Paul Martin government. Its terms of reference ordered maximum public disclosure. It cleared Arar of any suspicion of terrorism and cleared the way for a $10 million compensation payment from Ottawa.

In the wake of the Arar case, Harper’s government reluctantly approved an inquiry into the cases of three other Canadian Muslim men whose circumstances were similar to those of Arar’s case. But the second inquiry was designed by the Harper government to be secretive. No public hearings. The public version of its final report was heavily censored.

Moreover, the three men — Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin and Abdullah Almalki — are still battling Justice department lawyers in court to clear their names and receive compensation.

Fortunately, Trudeau’s new Justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, is politically astute and not likely to fall into the secrecy trap. She’s an experienced lawyer and a former First Nations’ leader in British Columbia, the province where many of these crimes were committed. Nobody in her department knows this file as well as she does.

As for the RCMP, well — they’re the police force that was responsible for investigating many of these cases in the West. Many Mounties won’t want to be questioned in public about what they did or didn’t do. Some may try to dodge accountability, claiming public disclosures can damage ongoing investigations.

The Mounties should not be allowed to make that call. It should be the call of the independent commission of inquiry — an inquiry empowered to force officers to testify and given a mandate to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.

Many indigenous people suspect the Mounties already know more than they’re letting on. They suspect some cops may have sexually abused women. The women may have been forced to flee their communities to get away from their abusers. This scenario — the police officer as abuser — is not unheard of. Aboriginal women in the remote northern community of Val-d’Or, Que., recently came forward with allegations that provincial police have been sexually abusing them for more than two decades.

Canadians were stunned 16 years ago when a former Mountie was convicted of trying to rape a 14-year-old Cree girl on the Pelican Narrows reserve in northern Saskatchewan. The case was already 30 years old by the time it was properly investigated and prosecuted. By then, the Mountie had left the force and had gone on to win election to Parliament.

The Pelican Narrows scandal is the perfect rejoinder to cops or anyone else who claims that cases have gone so cold there is no point in reviewing them. In Canada, it should never be too late for justice.

More from Jeff Sallot available here.

http://ipolitics.ca/2015/11/10/is-canada-prepared-for-what-a-missing-women-inquiry-might-reveal/

Native Leaders Call For Action, Not More Talk

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

By Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Dawn Lavell Harvard says the time for well-intentioned but often empty talk is over.

The president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, along with other national aboriginal leaders, will step up pressure for action when they meet Wednesday with provincial and territorial premiers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L.

They’re calling for detailed work plans to go with the photo ops and communiques from their yearly sit-down with the Council of the Federation.

“The most pressing concern we have right now in our communities is the ongoing level of violence,” Lavell Harvard said from Ottawa.

She believes provinces should step in as the federal Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuse to call a public inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt was among federal officials who attended a national roundtable on the issue last winter. They highlighted justice investments and a five-year, $25-million plan to reduce related violence as proof of action, saying an inquiry isn’t necessary.

“We want to see concrete action,” Lavell Harvard said. “Policing, access to justice, equity and discrimination issues.

“We need to push the provinces to do more.”

The 2011 National Household Survey suggests indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the national female population. But the RCMP has said they’re victims in 16 per cent of female homicides and account for 11 per cent of missing women.

The Mounties have reported that almost 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or have vanished since 1980, and that attackers are often known to the victims.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the issue will be front and centre Wednesday.

He also said the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released last month must not gather dust.

“The TRC recommendations and calls to action captured the whole country and the world,” he said in an interview. “We just need to give them life.”

The commission described as “cultural genocide” the suffering borne by generations of aboriginal children in once-mandatory residential schools.

It estimated more than 6,000 boys and girls, about one in 25, died in the institutions. Scores of others endured horrific physical and sexual abuse.

The commission made 94 recommendations toward reconciliation, urging Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework.

Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, representing about 55,000 Canadian Inuit, said disproportionate numbers of aboriginal children in provincial care will also be discussed.

“If we could only get the federal government to the table, that would definitely go a long way.”

Harper’s long-standing absence from first ministers’ meetings sends a strong message, Bellegarde said.

“If we’re going to rebuild this country, we need all levels of leadership to be there.”

Provinces need to start hinging resource development on company commitments to consult, employ and share benefits with aboriginal people, Bellegarde said.

Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council, notes the meeting will take place near the $8.6-billion Muskrat Falls hydro development.

His group, representing about 6,000 Inuit-Metis in southern Labrador, says it wasn’t properly consulted and is challenging the project in court.

The Nunatsiavut government has also raised alarms about how potential mercury contamination from flooding could affect Lake Melville, a food source for 2,000 Inuit.

Host Premier Paul Davis said the province reached a major benefits agreement on Muskrat Falls with the Innu Nation.

“I think there is great value in ensuring it happens on a more consistent basis not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but across the country,” he said in an interview.

Davis said the premiers’ working group on aboriginal affairs has been crafting action plans for several matters, including violence against women. Truth and Reconciliation Commission members Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild will speak to the meeting in Labrador about how provinces can respond, he added.

The premiers move to St. John’s for sessions Thursday and Friday, including energy and economic issues, health care, trade and climate change.

The Canadian Press

Follow @suebailey on Twitter.

http://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/5732336-native-leaders-call-for-action-not-more-talk/