Inquiry design meeting #1: December 11, 2015, Ottawa
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its first engagement meeting in Ottawa on Friday, December 11, 2015. 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 first 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.
The first engagement meeting opened and closed with traditional ceremonies. All 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.
Survivors, family members and loved ones gathered together in a large circle. They shared their personal experiences with violence against their daughters, sisters, cousins, and friends. The Ministers of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and Status of Women heard first-hand about the effects of this violence on the families and their communities. The Ministers also learned about the needs of the families and loved ones to move forward and to heal. The need for healing came through as a clear and central theme throughout the day.
The participants stressed that the national Inquiry must be designed with their direct involvement. The participation of the survivors, families, loved ones is necessary if the Inquiry is to be meaningful. Participants also went through a list of specific questions and their answers clearly show the importance and value of having these voices heard.
The first 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 Indigenous organizations. Also in attendance were:
- The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs,
- The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada,
- The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women
The Deputy Ministers and other senior officials from each of the three federal departments were also present throughout the day.
Over 70 family members and loved ones participated from several Indigenous communities. Most came from the greater Ottawa-Gatineau region. Some also attended from the Atlantic region and Manitoba as they wanted to attend the first meeting. Elders and health support workers were also present to provide a safe and supportive setting.
Leadership and participation
Two questions asked were who should lead and who should take part in the Inquiry. The views on leadership included the need to have:
- A panel or board comprising:
- A strong Indigenous, female lead
- Representatives from family members and loved ones
- A balance of genders, experience and training
- Non-political leadership that does not represent a particular organization or community
- Skilled and experienced Indigenous legal experts and professionals
Participants also identified which groups should have a chance to take part in the Inquiry:
- Family members, survivors and loved ones
- Elders and grandparents
- Healers, counsellors and traditional faith keepers
- Social service workers, support and front-line workers
- Police, including Indigenous police forces
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 provide:
- Safety: creating an environment where it is safe to "speaks one's truth"
- Protocols around attendance, media and speaking
- Sufficient resourcing and financial support to enable participation
- Supports to participants (health, linguistic, social and cultural)
- Multiples ways to submit views and recommendations (e.g., written submissions, video and videoconference, and community-held forums and private meetings)
Priorities and key issues
Participants identified the issues the Inquiry must address if it is to produce recommendations for specific actions. These issues include:
- Root causes of violence and abuse
- Effects of violence and abuse (mental, emotional, spiritual and physical, including sexual abuse)
- Ways to prevent violence and abuse
- Impacts of poverty, drugs and addictions
- The specific circumstances tied to the sex trade and to human trafficking
- Healing and supports
- Cultural sensitivity training, education and awareness especially anti-violence education
- Impacts of colonialism, residential schools, "60's scoop," child and family services
- Racism (including systemic), cultural ignorance and discrimination
- Intergenerational impacts on the children left behind and the grandparents who care for them
- Laws and of policing practices (municipal, provincial, federal and band police)
- Media treatment of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
- Different treatment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous missing and murdered cases
- Adequate funding to ensure specific actions be put in place and monitored
- Accessibility to Chiefs and Indigenous leaders
Participants want the Inquiry's final report to include recommendations for specific actions by:
- Justice system officials
- Canadian citizens
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 include:
- ones in traditional and cultural ceremonies
- Holding meetings within a circle to acknowledge the Four Directions
- Ensuring Elders take part
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:
- Responsible parties should take action now rather than wait until the final report is written
- The Inquiry should be national and hold meetings across Canada
- The Inquiry should involve:
- International Indigenous observers
- the "two-spirited" gay, lesbian and transgender communities
- a review of violence against men and boys
- The Inquiry should develop and launch:
- an anti-gang strategy
- an immigrant orientation strategy that includes First Nations, Inuit and Métis
- a national housing strategy to include First Nations, Inuit and Métis (Elders, seniors, single parents)
- The Inquiry should address the need for more resources for cultural and spiritual healing
- The Inquiry should consider human rights training for all law enforcement agencies
- The Inquiry should investigate further the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This should include a review of closed cases.