Inquiry design meeting #6: January 12-13, 2016, Vancouver, British Columbia
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its sixth engagement meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, January 12-13, 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.
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 survivors, family members and loved ones.
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, drumming, 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 violence on the families of victims and their communities and of Indigenous women who had experienced violence and survived.
Participants in the Vancouver 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.
Survivors, families and loved ones of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls attended the pre-inquiry meeting. There were also a number of representatives of front-line organizations. Also in attendance were:
- The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
- The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice
- The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women
- Cathy McLeod, Member of Canadian Parliament representing Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo
- Jenny Kwan, Member of Canadian Parliament representing Vancouver East
Officials from Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Justice and Status of Women were present throughout the day.
Close to 150 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 leadership included the need to have:
- Indigenous women
- women chiefs
- Indigenous scholars
- Indigenous judges/lawyers
- objective, independent leadership that does not reflect a particular organization, community or government
Participants also identified which groups should have a chance to take part in the inquiry:
- family members and loved ones
- survivors of violence, including sexual and domestic violence
- participants from remote Northern communities
- Elders and grandparents
- Healers, counsellors and traditional faith keepers
- social service workers, grassroots and front-line workers
- police, including RCMP, provincial, municipal and Indigenous police forces
- legal and other experts
Participants stressed the importance of involving survivors, families and loved ones, and to do so by visiting their communities. In meeting with families, participants indicated the inquiry must provide:
- safety: creating a safe and welcoming place for families to share their stories
- accessible spaces
- sufficient resourcing and financial support to enable participation, including for elders
- supports to participants (health, linguistic, social and cultural)
- multiple and low barrier ways to submit views and recommendations (e.g., written submissions, video and videoconference, forums held in community settings and private hearings)
Priorities and key issues
Participants identified the issues the inquiry must address if it is to produce recommendations for specific actions. These issues include:
- causes of violence and abuse, including poverty
- impacts violence and abuse (mental, emotional, spiritual and physical)
- safety needs, including transportation and housing
- specific issues facing women experiencing domestic violence
- risks and needs of those working in the sex trade
- review of investigations of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women
- police (municipal, provincial and federal) and other first responder (e.g., health) practices, protocols and oversight mechanisms
- communication and information sharing protocols with families and amongst different parts of government
- training for police and criminal justice personnel
- challenges for Indigenous women moving on- and off-reserve
- discriminatory treatment of Indigenous in the justice system and in general
- impacts of colonialism, residential schools, "60's scoop," child and family services
- impacts of intergenerational cycles of violence, including on children who have lost their mothers
- impacts of addictions, mental health
- racism (including systemic), discrimination and oppression
- media treatment of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and stereotypes about Indigenous women
- reviewing effective practices to enhance safety, including when exiting the sex trade
- ways to educate Canadians
- ways to support victims, prevent violence and support healing
- ways to support children and youth
- ways to support men in the penal system, including with traditional culture
- Ways to create more opportunities for Indigenous women
Participants want the Inquiry's final report to include recommendations for specific actions that can be implemented including:
- various levels of government
- justice system and law enforcement officials
- band councils
- Canadian citizens
In general, the participants agreed that addressing these complex issues will be a long-term process, and that all of the stakeholders involved will need to work together. They also stressed the need for actions now to prevent violence as well as protect and enhance the safety of Indigenous women. Participants also indicated that it will be important to establish indicators of success, so that efforts can be assessed in the future.
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 and support healing of the "heart and mind". Participants stressed it will be important to provide support for families throughout the process, and to recognize that families are at different levels of readiness to participate in the Inquiry process and will need different kinds of support.
Recommendations about how to include cultural practices and ceremony include:
- ensuring respect for local traditional and cultural ceremonies
- holding meetings within a circle to acknowledge the Four Directions
- ensuring Elders take part and are supported to do so
- organizing healing circles
Participants also suggested information sessions be held for families so that they fully understand the Inquiry process and their role in it.
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:
- reflect a feminist perspective and locate the issue within the context of male violence against women and the LGBT community
- be a values-based process, led by Indigenous peoples and in particular, women
- be inclusive and consider race, class and sexual identity
- include a sociological and historical perspective
- be informed by Indigenous methodology
- learn from challenges associated with past inquiries
- the process should be transparent
- the process should focus on prevention and healing
- responsible parties should take action now
- responsible parties should consider existing reports and recommendations
- the inquiry should be national and hold meetings across Canada and consider different ways of reaching urban and rural/remove areas
- the inquiry should consider violence against "two-spirited," transgender, gay and lesbian communities, and the men and boys who are are also missing
- the inquiry should
- provide legal support for families
- support families to find closure, including through analysis of DNA results
- formally acknowledge those who have been lost