Release: Federal inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women lacks provincial commitment

VANCOUVER – Today, West Coast LEAF calls on all levels of government to commit to addressing violence against Indigenous women and girls through a robust, effective national inquiry. Following decades of advocacy by Indigenous and women’s activists, the federal government finally committed to an Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada. Earlier today, they released the list of commissioners and the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Inquiry.

West Coast LEAF is pleased to see that the Inquiry is mandated to address systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls. We are also pleased that the government has taken steps to address some of the concerns that arose from the provincial Oppal Inquiry by providing protections for vulnerable witnesses, such as culturally sensitive counselling for survivors. In the context of this progress, it is particularly disappointing to see gaps in the TOR that will undermine the effectiveness and promise of the Inquiry, including the glaring lack of provincial and territorial commitment to the process.

“We call on all levels of government to commit to fully participating in the Inquiry,” says Kasari Govender, Executive Director and co-author of Blueprint for an Inquiry. “Many important areas impacting violence against Indigenous women and girls – regional and municipal policing, child protection, the administration of the justice system – all fall within provincial jurisdiction. Without binding commitments from the provinces and territories to full participation and disclosure of information, the Inquiry risks becoming an empty promise.”

“We are also troubled by the lack of accountability for policing and justice system responses to violence against Indigenous women and girls,” says Kendra Milne, Director of Law Reform. “The Terms of Reference allow Commissioners to direct families concerned about ongoing or past investigations back to ‘appropriate authorities’. Pointing families back to the very authorities whose conduct they are questioning is at best ineffectual and at worst wilful blindness to the concerns raised by families and communities around policing issues.”

As a member of the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, West Coast LEAF is meeting with British Columbia Attorney General Suzanne Anton this afternoon to call for the province to demonstrate its commitment to the Inquiry process.