Inquiry design meeting #5: January 10-11, 2016, Whitehorse, Yukon
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its fifth engagement meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon, on Sunday and Monday January 10-11, 2016. This pre-inquiry meeting included survivors, families and loved ones and front-line organizations. 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.
The engagement meeting was held over two days with the first day being a preparation day.
An Elder arrived and prepared the space for the first day which comprised a registration and orientation session where survivors, families and loved ones shared 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 by survivors, family members and loved ones and front-line organizations.
The second day was dedicated to how the inquiry should be designed. The day opened and closed with traditional ceremonies. A sacred fire was lit outdoors on the banks of the Yukon River, drumming was performed, and a statement was made on behalf of a number of families who had met in December. 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 Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs heard about the effects of this violence on the families of victims and their communities and of Indigenous women who had experienced violence and survived.
Participants in the Whitehorse session mentioned the importance of making sure that families, loved ones and survivors are involved throughout the design of the inquiry.
Survivors, families and loved ones of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls attended the pre-inquiry meeting. There were also representatives of front-line organizations. Also in attendance were:
- the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
- Larry Bagnell, Member of Canadian Parliament representing Yukon
Officials from Indigenous and Northern Affairs were present throughout the day.
Close to 70 survivors, family members and loved ones and representatives from front-line organizations participated from several Indigenous communities. Elders and health support workers were also present to provide a safe and supportive environment for discussions.
Leadership and participation
Two questions were asked about who should lead and who should take part in the inquiry. The views on leadership included the need to have:
- a Northern Commissioner is essential
- representatives from across Canada
- representatives from the provinces and territories
- local women's organizations
- families, loved ones and survivors that have been affected by violence
- women and men commissioners
- Elders playing key roles
Participants also identified which groups should have a chance to take part in the inquiry:
- need to include people in the Northern remote communities
- immediate loved ones and family of the victims as well as extended family
- women and girls who are at risk
- men and boys
- all Canadians should be encouraged to participate
- engage/involve youth
- First Nations governments to support not lead
- families of perpetrators
- medical and education staff as well as victim service providers
- skilled and experienced Indigenous legal experts and professionals
- women's groups
- front-line organizations
- friendship centres
- subject matter experts
Priorities and key issues
Participants identified the issues the Inquiry must address if it is to produce recommendations for specific actions. These issues include:
- the inquiry must create a place of safety where people feel comfortable participating on an equal basis
- unique Northern considerations such as remoteness must be considered
- immediate and long term support systems should be in place for families when a woman or girl goes missing
- government should create a national database for missing women and girls that can be accessed by family members as well as RCMP and other police agencies
- legacy of Indian Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop must be considered
- address ongoing racism
- educate RCMP and local police
- schools teach anti-bullying but no comprehensive anti-violence education about sexual abuse, incest, domestic assault and how to stop it
- need treatment centres for drug and alcohol abuse but run by Indigenous people using culturally appropriate methods
- need more supports for women who survive violence in the criminal justice system when they are witnesses
- elderly women are also going missing or are murdered not just young
- violence including murder is not always reported to police out of fear of the perpetrator and mistrust of the Justice system
- need a 1-800 national call number to report someone missing and an immediate response from police especially since the incidence of violence against Indigenous women is so high
- communication with families and loved ones who do not read or write
- offenders should also be engaged to hear from them what incited them to violence
- address sex trafficking
Participants want the inquiry's final report to include recommendations for specific actions including:
- examine the scope of issues and breaking them into more manageable sections with clear recommendations and an action plan
- a plan and funding to address violence at the community level
- education for youth
- education for RCMP and local police
- examine gaps in existing programs
- create programs for community healing
- independent process to address "cold cases" (not the RCMP or provincial police themselves)
- creation of National Victim Services Unit
Support and cultural practices
Participants outlined 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 include:
- Elders need to be consulted and included in the process, possibly an Elders and Spiritual Advisory Council
- Northern spiritual ceremonies to help individuals and families to continue the healing process
- traditional ceremonies such as drumming, dancing and singing
- incorporate healing and celebration in all ceremonies
- all participants need culturally appropriate care and support before, during and after
- culturally-appropriate training for Inquiry Commissioners and staff
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:
- Family Gatherings should be scheduled in advance of all inquiry events so that participants can share their stories, express their emotions and feel that they have been heard
- ongoing care and support will be essential
- ongoing community consultation
- funding for families to travel to events
- learn from the TRC