Inquiry design meeting #7: January 14-15, 2016, Prince George, British Columbia

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its seventh engagement meeting in Prince George, British Columbia, January 14-15, 2016. This pre-inquiry meeting included survivors, families and loved ones and front-line organizations. Their experiences, views and contributions will 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 engagement meeting was held over two days with the first day being a preparation day.

Elders 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 all of them.

The second day was dedicated to how the inquiry should be designed. The day opened and closed with traditional ceremonies consisting of a blanket ceremony, prayers and singing. Those in attendance acknowledged and honoured the women and girls who were murdered and who are still missing.

The Minister of Justice, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Minister of Status of Women 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 Prince George session stressed the importance of making sure that families, loved ones and survivors and front-line organizations are involved throughout the design of the Inquiry.

Who attended

Survivors, families and loved ones of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls attended he pre-Inquiry meeting.  There were also a number of representatives of front-line organizations. Also in attendance were:

Officials from Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Justice and Status of Women were present throughout the day.

Close to 80 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 who should lead the inquiry included the need to consider having a panel/taskforce/advisory group of three to four persons. Some felt the panel should be gender balanced, while others thought it should be led by Indigenous women. Some participants said it should reflect the diversity of Indigenous peoples, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit and the Four Directions. Some suggested it be guided by a group of advisors made up of survivors, family members and elders.

Participants also identified which groups should have a chance to take part in the Inquiry:

Participants stressed the importance of involving a broad range of survivors, families and loved ones, without a time limiting period (i.e., anyone who has a loved one who has been murdered or gone missing in any timeframe) and understanding the broad definition of family in Indigenous cultures. In meeting with families, participants indicated the Inquiry must go across Canada, and to isolated communities, and provide:

Priorities and key issues

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

Participants want the inquiry's final report to include recommendations that are specific, and will lead to actions that can and will be implemented. They called for specific recommendations aimed at:

In general, the participants agreed that there are a range of issues that need to be addressed in order to create a better future for Indigenous peoples and for Canada. They stressed it will be important to ensure that the Inquiry leads to concrete calls to action and outcomes that can be measured over time.

Support and Cultural practices

Participants stressed the need to include traditional practices and ceremonies in the inquiry process, similar to those that are proposed in the pre-inquiry process. Participants said it will be important to provide counselling and other types of support to help families to prepare for the process, and during their participation in the inquiry. They also said families should also be connected to elders and local organizations to receive support after their participation in the inquiry.

Recommendations about how to include cultural practices and ceremony include:

Throughout, there should be efforts to provide families with sufficient notice to prepare for the Inquiry and tools created to explain the process to families.

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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