Inquiry design meeting #14: February 8-9, 2016, Regina, Saskatchewan
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its 14th engagement meeting in Regina, on February 8-9, 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. Rather, it highlights the key themes that emerged from this engagement meeting. Read a copy of the discussion guide used at this meeting.
The engagement meeting was held over two days. The first day included orientation sessions for participants. Survivors, families and loved ones also shared their personal stories associated with violence against Indigenous women and girls.
The second day was dedicated to how the inquiry should be designed. Elders provided opening prayers followed by welcoming speeches from the Ministers. 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 Justice and Attorney general of Canada, and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness heard about the effects of violence on the survivors, the families of victims and their communities.
Participants in the Regina 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 ended with traditional drumming, singing and a closing thank you from an elder to participants.
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. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney general of Canada
Officials from both departments as well as from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada were present throughout the day.
The Regina meeting was attended by about 70 survivors, family members and loved ones from Indigenous communities in the province. Elders from the following nations were present: Cree, Nakota, Dakota, Lakota and Saulteaux. To ensure the well-being of participants, health support workers, including Indigenous elders, from Health Canada were available at the meetings and over-night to provide additional cultural and emotional support.
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 groups: First Nations, Inuit and Métis
- a neutral commission
- families and community leadership
- band council involvement at arm's length
- elder involvement
- Indigenous women and leads
- human rights specialists
- Indigenous lawyers with in-depth background and knowledge
- the federal, provincial and territorial governments should play a role
Participants also identified which groups should have a chance to take part in the inquiry:
- families and loved ones of the victims and their supports
- representatives of front-line organizations that work with victims of violence
- community leadership and support services
- Indigenous organizations
- RCMP and Police Services
- legal representatives
Participants stressed the importance of involving survivors, families and loved ones. To make this possible, participants said the inquiry must:
- create a community based system to seek involvement in the process
- include all families, not only certain families who typically participate in meetings
- engage with Elders first for advice on how to seek involvement within the communities
- visit remote communities directly to ensure full participation from remote locations; Inquiry should visit communities in the North
- 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
- provide a safe and confidential space
- include language interpretation including sign language
- provide guidance counselors for the youth
- do not involve media
Priorities and key issues
Participants identified the issues the inquiry must address if it is to produce recommendations for specific actions. These issues include:
- police accountability regarding how reports of missing and murdered cases are handled, including around how the police examine and scrutinize their own policing activity
- 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
- the fear of reprisal and of breaking community cohesion which too often stops victims from denunciating their abusers
- gang violence and involvement in
- the links between sexual abuse, violence and suicide
- the support offered to victims of violence and to families and loved ones
- the child welfare system
- racism (including systemic), cultural ignorance and discrimination in accessing services
Participants want the Inquiry's final report to include recommendations for specific actions including:
- create a national office and reporting system for missing women that is adequately staffed to immediately respond
- the establishment of a cold case files DNA database
- cultural sensitivity training for RCMP
- 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
- supporting the children of missing and murdered Indigenous women
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:
- provide ceremonies to start the process and include different ceremonies for women and men
- vonsult with local communities and their elders to ensure that specific local practices are respected
- include prayers, smudging, protection ceremonies, pipe ceremonies, memorial feasts, and offer tobacco to Elders
- promote healing practices and hold appropriate healing ceremonies throughout
- organize a round dance to honor the deceased
- prepare traditional foods
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:
- meetings should include a follow-up component with the families to ensure proper supports are in place
- create a system to ensure that the Inquiry fulfills its mandate and to ensure that recommendations are actually put in action
- create a special office or advisor on Indigenous women for the provincial premiers
- create a victims fund for the children of missing and murdered women
- provide care givers to help raise children of missing and murdered women
- provide protection for those who come forward to testify
- families need to work together on these issues
- inquiry will be an opportunity to educate and inform Canadians about the issue and to break down harmful stereotypes