Release: Changes to National Inquiry needed to meaningfully meet its mandate

VANCOUVER – This morning, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (“Inquiry”) begins the first of four days of expert hearings. West Coast LEAF is in Quebec City for the hearings, which are focused on understanding a human rights framework for the Inquiry’s work.

The Inquiry has a mandate to identify and examine systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including Indigenous people who Two-Spirit. 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 organizations it needs to hear from most — Indigenous organizations with valuable 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 of participation in its 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,” says Raji Mangat, Director of Litigation at West Coast LEAF. “It would do a grave disservice to those who have already testified before the Inquiry, and seriously undermine national momentum towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Without adequate time for a more robust process, the systemic and institutional failures at the heart of this Inquiry will continue to go unexamined and unanswered.”

“West Coast LEAF’s participation in the Inquiry does not mean that we endorse this diminished process,” says Kasari Govender, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “We are calling for a deeper investment in ensuring that the process is accountable and that the Inquiry achieves its critical aims. The government must allow the Inquiry adequate time to do its work properly, and the Inquiry must ensure that the process going forward allows for a deeper investigation into the structural issues that have led to the endemic levels of violence faced by Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people that we see today.”

She adds, “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.”