Inquiry design meeting #2: National Aboriginal Organizations, provinces and territories, Ottawa, December 16, 2015
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held a meeting on the design of the inquiry at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on December 16, 2015. 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 or complete the on-line survey to share your own views.
This meeting provided the opportunity for the Ministers of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, of Department of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Status of Women, and the Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, to hear the views of National Aboriginal Organizations and provincial and territorial governments regarding the design of the inquiry.
The meeting began with National Aboriginal Organizations. Provincial and territorial government representatives joined in for the second part of the meeting.
All participants expressed strong support for, and commitment to, the inquiry and offered their assistance to the process. The focus on families as well as healing, education and the need to bridge social and economic gaps were strong themes throughout the meeting.
This engagement meeting was intended for National Aboriginal Organizations, provinces and territories to share and discuss their views on the inquiry with the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women.
Representatives from the following National Aboriginal Organizations were present and were given the opportunity to put forward their views on the design and scope of the national inquiry:
- Assembly of First Nations
- Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
- Métis National Council
- Métis Women’s Organization
- Native Women’s Association of Canada
- Pauktuutit – Inuit Women of Canada.
Representatives from the provincial and territorial governments included:
- Minister of Justice and Attorney General, British Columbia
- Minister of Justice, Solicitor General and Minister of Aboriginal Relations, Alberta
- Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General, Saskatchewan
- Special Advisor on Aboriginal Women’s Issues for the Aboriginal Issues Committee of Cabinet, Manitoba
- Deputy Minister responsible for Women’s Issues, Ontario
- Secrétaire adjoint, Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones, Québec
- Minister and Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs; Assistant Deputy Minister of Women’s Equality Branch, New Brunswick
- Chief Executive Officer, Nova Scotia Aboriginal Affairs, Nova Scotia
- Directors of the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat and Inter-Ministerial Women’s Secretariat, Prince Edward Island
- Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Minister and Acting Deputy Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Nunavut
- Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, Northwest Territories
- Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, Yukon.
Elders and officials from federal departments were also in attendance.
Leadership and participation
In terms of leadership of the inquiry, participants voiced the need to ensure that First Nations, Inuit and Métis are each represented among commissioners. The importance of determining the mandate of the inquiry before selecting the commissioners was also noted.
Participants discussed which groups should be involved once the inquiry is underway. These included:
- Survivors, families and loved ones – the priority in terms of participation
- Grassroots and front-line organizations
- 2 spirited community; transgender community
- Men and boys particularly men with regard to their involvement in preventing violence
- Municipal, provincial and territorial, and federal governments.
Priorities of the inquiry
Participants discussed what they see as priorities for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Key themes coming out of the discussion was the need for the inquiry to:
- Be mindful, respectful and understanding of the needs of families, including providing cultural and health supports for families throughout the inquiry and beyond, and also providing resourcing to enable families and individuals to effectively participate
- Focus on forward looking, concrete actions to address the causes and impacts of violence toward Indigenous women and girls
- Give proper consideration to existing reports and their recommendations and how those could inform concrete actions
- Ensure that the inquiry does not become a venue for lawyers to exploit the vulnerabilities of families and loved ones.
Key issues to address
Key issues participants want the inquiry to examine and address, include:
- Root causes of violence and abuse, including links to:
- child welfare system and social services / systems
- housing issues
- Impact of residential schooling
- Policing issues including investigations, practices and protection
- The justice system and legislative environment
- Appropriate funding
- Concrete actions to improve
- education on this issue
- Indigenous participation in the economy
- Existing tools and programs and their efficacy towards prevention.
Support and cultural practices
The importance of providing appropriate resources and support to families and loved ones was evident throughout the meeting. The supports noted included:
- Financial support for survivors, families and loved ones to attend and/or participate in the inquiry
- Health supports before, during and after the inquiry – being mindful of potential for re-traumatization
- Support for individuals with disabilities
- Linguistic and legal support.
Participants also expressed the need to ensure cultural practices and the context in small communities are recognized, respected and incorporated or taken into account in the inquiry process. For example, participants expressed the need to ensure that each Indigenous group (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) and their distinct culture and practices are considered and support. The presence of elders and caregivers was also considered important to an effective inquiry.
Format and timeline of the inquiry
Participants discussed the structure/format of the inquiry, as well as the length of the inquiry. Suggestions included:
- Establishing the inquiry in accordance with the Inquiries Act
- The need for the inquiry to be conducted in an open and transparent manner
- Considering holding hearings in communities to enable those in remote locations to participate
- Adhering to clear timelines with a goal to act rapidly while making sure that families have the time they need to tell their stories
- Involving regional people in getting families involved
- Establishing a family advisory committee, attached to the inquiry structure, to work directly with families and represent them.
As well as discussing the questions posed by the discussion guide, participants were invited to share any other comments on the design of the inquiry. Comments included the need for information to be shared as we progress in this journey towards an inquiry and link the inquiry to the reconciliation agenda.