National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered
Indigenous Women and Girls
The Assembly of First Nations pressed for many years for the establishment of a national inquiry into the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls that takes a “families first” approach aimed at actions and solutions, and to ensure all governments and policing services meet their obligations to protect the fundamental human rights of Indigenous women and girls.
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
In September 2016, the Government of Canada established an independent National Inquiry under the federal Inquiries Act. Its mandate is complemented by provincial/territorial Orders-in-Council. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (the National Inquiry) has authority to look into matters under federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions. The Commissioners have been asked to examine underlying historical, social, economic, institutional and cultural factors that contribute to violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls and their greater vulnerability to this violence. They will examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors.
The Inquiry will make recommendations to eliminate systemic causes of violence and to assure the safety of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. They will also recommend ways to honour and commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The Inquiry’s Interim Report is due November 1, 2017 and the final report is due November 2018.
Grand Chief Denise Stonefish Chair of the AFN Women’s Council
On February 8, 2017 the Commissioners met with leadership from AFN – Denise Stonefish, Chair of the AFN Women’s Council—as well as other national Indigenous organizations (the “NIOs”). The AFN advised the Commissioners to take a “families first” approach, consistent with AFN Resolution 72/2015. Since that meeting, the Inquiry’s Executive Director has organized conference calls with staff representatives from the NIOs. The Inquiry is now nine months into its mandate and has yet to begin its hearings. AFN staff have communicated First Nations’ deep concerns and frustration with the delays and lack of communication and outreach to family members.
On April 13, 2017 following a regional advisory meeting in Whitehorse, the National Inquiry advised that it would be postponing the remaining regional advisory meetings and that the Commissioners would be taking a pause to reconsider the Inquiry process. On May 10, 2017 the Inquiry announced that it will hold three days of family hearings in Whitehorse at the end of May, but it will postpone the remaining family hearings until fall 2017 and that the Commissioners will spend the summer hearing from experts on violence against women and will attend training.
The Inquiry’s legal counsel will be reviewing intake forms from survivors and family members and decide which individuals will be given the opportunity to address the Commissioners. Organizations also may apply for standing and on May 1, 2017 the AFN made a formal application for standing to the National Inquiry and is awaiting a response.
Family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have increasingly expressed their frustration with the Inquiry’s process. On May 14, 2017 family members, activists and representative groups sent an open letter to the National Inquiry strongly encouraging that the Commissioners immediately reach out and inform First Nations, Indigenous peoples and organizations and most of all, the families, to clearly communicate the plans and timing for the National Inquiry. Family members and groups representing family members have also all called for the Inquiry to be reset. AFN National Chief Bellegarde has on several occasions invited the Commissioners to meet with the AFN to discuss how it is organizing its work. The Inquiry Commissioners have been invited to attend Chiefs-in-Assembly meetings and most recently the upcoming Executive Committee meeting in June.
The AFN has repeatedly expressed its willingness to provide advice and offer the diverse regional perspectives of First Nations, and to facilitate communication between the Inquiry and First Nations and First Nation families. The AFN will continue to press for implementation of the “families first” approach.
Angie TurnerNational Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls