For many affected families, First Nations leaders and advocacy groups, the long-awaited National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW) has been a disappointment.
“We had great hopes when the inquiry was announced but lately it seems to have lost its focus,” said Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam.
“There needs to be a strong look at where this inquiry is going; they need to listen to the families and how all of this is affecting them,” he added. “There’s too much politics in this whole issue, and not the people affected in mind.”
Following the resignations of the MMIW’s executive director and a commissioner, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is calling for a restructuring of the inquiry.
“The departure of a commissioner, immediately following the resignation of the executive director, is a clear indication that there are unresolved structural issues occurring at the highest levels,” said NWAC interim president Francyne Joe. “This process has lost its focus on those who are impacted by the loss of loved ones and on honouring the lives of Indigenous women.”
Last week the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in B.C. – comprised of family members, survivors and more than 40 entities – wrote an open letter to prime minister Justin Trudeau also saying that many people have been frustrated by the process.
“Multiple people have left significant positions within the national inquiry; this disturbing trend should be cause for significant alarm for this government,” reads the letter.
However, the coalition says it’s not too late to ensure that the national inquiry is a success as long as the federal government takes “meaningful action.”
“The coalition has heard loud and clear that one of the biggest fears and concerns from families and survivors about reaching out to the national inquiry is that they do not know what the process will look like. The coalition has consistently highlighted the need for ongoing consultation and transparency with impacted people and groups throughout the national inquiry process in order to optimize participation.”
The coalition also points out that there’s no explicit provision to examine the role policing has had in causing or contributing to the violence against aboriginal women and girls.
“The RCMP and other police departments, such as the Vancouver Police Department, have an extremely damaged relationship with Indigenous communities, and ignoring this reality is deeply problematic,” says the letter.
Inquiry commissioners will hold nine community hearings across Canada this fall, its second round of hearings, starting Sept. 10 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and ending early December in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. The MMIW inquiry is scheduled to hold hearings in Prince George in September.
Commissioners will also travel to Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Halifax, Edmonton, Yellowknife, and Maliotenam, Quebec.