Inquiry design meeting #3: January 5-6, 2016, Thunder Bay, Ontario

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its third engagement meeting in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 5-6, 2016. This pre-inquiry meeting included survivors, families and loved ones. Their experiences, views and contributions will be used to help design the inquiry.

A summary of the meeting is provided below. The summary is not a complete account of the discussions. Instead, it highlights the key themes that emerged from this engagement meeting. Read a copy of the discussion guide used at this meeting or complete the on-line survey to share your own views.

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Overview

The first day was dedicated to orientation sessions and to a sharing circle where survivors, families and loved ones could share their personal stories associated with violence against Indigenous women and girls. The effects of this violence were discussed as well as the journey towards healing. Elders smudged the space beforehand and Sacred Drum was brought in to bring ceremony for the families, to help them heal and fill the space with positive energy. The drum group provided songs for families to gather, sing and hear the drum songs for healing.

The second day was opened and closed with traditional ceremonies. Those in attendance acknowledged and honoured the women and girls who were murdered and who are still missing. Prayers were also offered for those most affected by these tragedies. The day was dedicated to how the inquiry should be designed as well as to discuss ways to support healing for families and loved ones.

Personal experiences were shared and the Ministers of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and Status of Women heard first-hand about the effects of this violence on the families and their communities.

Participants in the Thunder Bay session mentioned the importance of having loved one and family involved throughout the inquiry process and indicated their interest in being part of the process. Participants also clearly signaled a need to examine the underlying causes of violence and explore concrete actions to address those underlying causes.

Who attended

The pre-inquiry meeting was attended by survivors, families and loved ones of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.  There were also representatives of front-line and local Indigenous organizations. Also in attendance were:

Officials from each of the federal departments were also present throughout the day.

More than 160 family members and loved ones participated from several Indigenous communities, mostly from Ontario. Elders and health support workers were also present to provide a safe and supportive setting.

Leadership and participation

Participants were asked who they thought should lead and who should take part in the inquiry.  The views on leadership included the need to have:

Participants also identified which groups should have a chance to take part in the inquiry. These included:

Participants stressed the importance of involving survivors, families and loved ones, and to do so by visiting their communities. To make this possible, participants said the inquiry must:

Priorities and key issues

Participants identified the issues the Inquiry must examine and address if it is to produce recommendations for specific actions. These issues include:

Participants want the inquiry's final report to include recommendations for specific actions including:

In general, the participants agreed that solving the problem of violence will be a long-term process. As such, efforts to address violence will need to be monitored, measured and supported. As time passes, attention should continue to focus on the needs and concerns of survivors, families and loved ones.

Support and cultural practices

Participants stressed the need to include traditional practices and ceremonies in the inquiry process. The inquiry must also include healing processes to acknowledge and address the trauma felt by those affected.

Recommendations about how to include cultural practices and ceremony included:

Additional comments

As well as discussing the questions listed in the discussion guide, participants were invited to share other comments and views on the design of the inquiry.  These include:

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