Inquiry design meeting #9: January 20-21, 2016, Quebec, Quebec
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its ninth engagement meeting in Quebec City, on Wednesday and Thursday, January 20-21, 2016. This pre-inquiry meeting included survivors, families and loved ones. Their experiences, views and contributions will contribute to the design of 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. The first day was a preparation day for participants with an orientation session and a sharing circle where survivors, families and loved ones shared their personal stories associated with violence against Indigenous women and girls.
The second day was dedicated to how the inquiry should be designed. The day opened with wise words from an Elder and a traditional Wendat song to honour women was sung. Welcoming speeches from the Ministers followed. Participants 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 and the Minister of Canadian Heritage heard about the effects of violence on the survivors, the families of victims and their communities.
Participants in the Quebec session discussed their desire for those most directly impacted by violence to play a key role in an Inquiry and to have their needs met throughout the process.
The day closed with words of hope and a traditional Huron-Wendat round dance song.
Survivors, families and loved ones of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls attended he 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
- The Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage
Officials from both departments were present throughout the day.
The Quebec City meeting was attended by about 30 survivors, family members and loved ones from Indigenous communities in the province. An Elder 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:
- expertise from the three Indigenous group: First Nations, Inuit and Métis
- Indigenous commissioners with in-depth background knowledge, influence, and a solid grasp of the justice system
- the federal government play a key role via at least 3 departments (Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Justice, and Status of Women) with participation from provinces and territories
Participants also identified which groups should have a chance to take part in the inquiry:
- families and loved ones of the victims
- women who have escaped situations of violence as well as women and girls who are at risk
- representatives of front-line organizations that work with victims of violence
- social and health services
- Indigenous organizations, including Femmes Autochtones du Québec
- First Nations chiefs
- police, including Indigenous police officer
- lawyers that have been involved in past cases
- municipal representatives and Native Friendship centres to cover urban Indigenous issues
- churches and religious communities
- international representatives
Participants stressed the importance of involving survivors, families and loved ones. To make this possible, participants said the inquiry must:
- ensure that participants are guided throughout the process and are given enough time to prepare
- visit remote communities directly to ensure full participation from remote locations
- liaise with local social services to ensure that they are prepared to meet the needs of families upon their return to their communities after participation
- involve community media to get messages out
- provide a safe space
- ensure that appropriate translation is provided
- provide legal advice and representation
Priorities and key issues
Participants identified the issues the inquiry must address if it is to produce recommendations for specific actions. These issues include:
- policing, with emphasis on how some police officers deal with cases of violence against Indigenous women
- the perceived inequities in the justice system, including differential treatment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous victims and accused
- delays in the justice system which are placing victims in difficult situations for extended periods of time
- breakdown in communication between victims, families and loved ones and the justice system
- the fear of reprisal and of breaking community cohesion which too often stops victims from denunciating their abusers
- the links between sexual abuse, violence and suicide
- how criminal organizations prey on vulnerable Indigenous women, including human trafficking
- the particular realities of small and remote communities where victims have to live in close proximity with abusers and sometimes experience intimidation
- the support offered to victims of violence and to families and loved ones
- the child welfare system
- the impact of past policies such as residential school attendance
- racism (including systemic), cultural ignorance and discrimination in accessing services
Participants want the inquiry's final report to include recommendations for specific actions including:
- establishing a national action plan based with tripartite engagement (Federal, provincial or territorial and Indigenous)
- creating a review structure to ensure that recommendations are actually put in action
- reviewing police codes of professional conduct to better protect vulnerable Indigenous women
- the need for various levels of governments and various jurisdictions to work together
- enhancing support mechanisms after violent event
- healing and reconciliation measures
In general, the participants agreed that solving the problem of violence will be a long-term process and will require building trust among Indigenous communities and the police and justice systems. As time passes, attention should continue to focus on the needs and concerns of survivors, families and loved ones.
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:
- promote healing practices and hold appropriate healing ceremonies throughout
- consult with local communities and their elders to ensure that specific local practices are respected
- establish a committee of wise women made of individuals that are trusted by their peers
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:
- The inquiry needs to have a clear mandate so as to lead to achievable recommendations.
- The inquiry should allow families and loved ones to achieve some level of closure. This would involve investigating further unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
- The role of church representatives in particular cases of disappearance was raised, particularly from past cases back when the church held huge powers over the province of Quebec.
- The lack of information that several families experienced was mentioned and improvements in communication between families and authorities was proposed as a key recommendation.