The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (“the Inquiry”) has a mandate to investigate the systemic factors contributing to all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada, including more than 1,000 violent deaths and disappearances. This mandate includes reporting on current institutional policies and practices to address violence, and making recommendations to improve the effectiveness of these institutional approaches.
The Inquiry comes after decades of tireless advocacy by Indigenous women for Canada to take action to address the ongoing epidemic of colonial gender-based violence. It was launched by the federal government in 2016 as an Inquiry independent from federal, provincial, and territorial governments, and is led by Chief Commissioner Marion Buller.
The Inquiry’s sources of information include testimony by loved ones of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and by Indigenous women who have experienced violence; expert and institutional hearings; collaboration with Elders and knowledge-keepers; forensic examination of police records; and past and current research.
West Coast LEAF’s Involvement
West Coast LEAF has a long history of working alongside community allies to address violence against Indigenous women and girls. In 2011, along with a number of other community organizations, West Coast LEAF was granted standing to participate in the BC Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the disappearance and murder of dozens of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) and along the Highway of Tears in Northern BC. However, when the government failed to provide funding for counsel for community groups, West Coast LEAF joined a large number of participants in withdrawing from the Commission. In the aftermath of this withdrawal, a coalition of Indigenous organizations, women’s organizations, and grassroots anti-poverty organizations in the DTES formed. We continue to collaborate with this coalition today. Also following that withdrawal, West Coast LEAF worked with Pivot Legal Society and the BC Civil Liberties Association to produce a critique of the BC Missing Women Inquiry process entitled Blueprint for an Inquiry: Learning from the Failures of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
As part of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, West Coast LEAF has standing to participate in parts II (Institutional) and III (expert) hearings. These hearings are currently scheduled to include examination of human rights frameworks, racism, government services such as child protection services, and policing.
We are deeply concerned that the current approach to these hearings are not sufficient to fulfill the Inquiry’s mandate to investigate the systemic, root causes of the violence, and we have written the Chief Commissioner to express our concerns. We also supported the commissioners’ call for an extension of time for the Inquiry, by calling on the government to grant the extension. Our involvement in the Inquiry is not an endorsement of the process, but rather, an indication of our commitment to making this process as meaningful as possible.
Systemic hearings are ongoing until the end of June 2018. The Inquiry is currently scheduled to deliver its final report on November 1, 2018, but is awaiting news about whether the request for a two-year extension is granted.