This morning, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls begins the first of four days of expert hearings. The Inquiry has a mandate to identify and examine systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including Indigenous people who are Two-Spirit.

As a legal organization with standing to participate, West Coast LEAF is in Quebec City for the hearings, which are focused on the human rights framework for the Inquiry’s work. West Coast LEAF’s participation in the Inquiry does not mean that we endorse this diminished process.

As we monitor the hearings, we are calling for a deeper investment in ensuring that the process is accountable and that the Inquiry achieves its critical aims.

More than a year and a half into the Inquiry, the Part 2 (institutional) and Part 3 (expert) hearings are only now getting underway and are scheduled to take place in May and June. Unfortunately, the hearings planned in the remaining time fall far short of what is necessary for the Inquiry to meaningfully meet its mandate.

West Coast LEAF has called for action from Chief Commissioner Marion Buller and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett to ensure that the Inquiry facilitates full, meaningful participation from the very organizations it needs to hear from most – Indigenous organizations with indispensable insight into the experience of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people.

We are calling for both the two-year extension requested by the Chief Commissioner and significant changes to the process for hearings.

As participants in Parts 2 and 3, we feel that denying the extension to the Inquiry would result in an enormous waste of a long overdue opportunity to understand the institutional and systemic dimensions of violence against Indigenous people.

Additionally, it would do a grave disservice to those families and survivors who have already testified before the Inquiry, and seriously undermine Canada’s stated commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Without time to accommodate a robust and meaningful process, the systemic and institutional failures that led to the disappearances and murders of so many Indigenous women and girls will continue to go unexamined and unanswered.

We know that this is our only chance at an Inquiry examining violence against Indigenous women and girls; let’s ensure that it is a meaningful opportunity to address this ongoing national tragedy.

We have an obligation to do it right.