Ministers consult indigenous women on missing, murdered inquiry

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu offered new details Wednesday about the possible design of the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, after their second closed-door meeting with families of victims.

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The meeting, held in Thunder Bay, Ont., is one of at least nine scheduled for the pre-inquiry phase, which Bennett said she expects will wrap up by summer.

Among the things Hajdu said they learned at the emotional meeting was the importance of hearing from women who had “a near miss.”

Bennett, meanwhile, said she heard some families want the inquiry to stretch across international borders, where loved ones may have last been.

Bennett also said women had expressed concern that their personal safety will be protected if they come forward with stories.

On top of that, Bennett said she heard about the desire to involve police and child welfare agencies that are not under federal control.

One big challenge, according to Bennett, will be choosing an indigenous name for the commission that’s “inclusive not only of our First Nations sisters (but also) our Inuit and Metis sisters.”

Bennett added that with any “feminist exercise,” there is “always the question of who is not here that should be here,” and that some had suggested youth must be included.

Bennett suggested students may “help families take down their stories and make their submissions, in a way, as powerful as possible.”

Asked whether a commissioner had been chosen, Hajdu said they are still taking suggestions, and that that there may be more than one.

As for the timeline, Bennett said the government wants to balance “getting it right with a proper pre-inquiry consultation and getting on with the commission,” so that they can “put in place concrete actions to make it stop.”

Bennett added she hopes to have the pre-inquiry consultation wrapped up as early as Mother’s Day in May, adding, “I don’t think we should get to Canada Day without the important work of the commission beginning.”

A meeting has already been held in Ottawa, and there are meetings scheduled for the following cities:

  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: January 8, 2016
  • Whitehorse, Yukon: January 11, 2016
  • Vancouver, British Columbia: January 13, 2016
  • Prince George, British Columbia: January 15, 2016
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia: January 20, 2016
  • Québec City, Québec : January 21, 2016
  • Montréal, Québec : January 22, 2016

All Canadians are invited to participate in the pre-inquiry design process by filling out an online survey.


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