Yesterday the Government of Canada announced the commissioners to head the public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“For over a decade, the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have been demanding action,” said Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennet. “Today, after meaningful engagement with the families, experts and those with lived experience, I am proud that the Prime Minister, with the support of all provinces and territories, has appointed five outstanding Commissioners who will now be able to do the work needed for Canada to put in place the concrete actions necessary to put an end to this national tragedy.”
Bennett, along with Jody Wilson-Raybold, Minister of Justice, and Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women, announced the names of five commissioners: the Honourable Marion Buller, Michèle Audette, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, and Brian Eyolfson.
“The launch of the Inquiry represents a concrete expression of the government’s commitment to honouring the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls,” said Wilson-Raybould. “By examining the root causes that have contributed to this national tragedy, including past and present systemic and institutional barriers, the Commission of Inquiry will play a pivotal role in helping all of us to define where best to continue to act to protect the human rights of all Indigenous women and girls in Canada.”
The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Women and Girls, conversely, responded with three main concerns regarding plans for the inquiry. First, the coalition argued, the inquiry does not include any legally-binding commitments from Canadian provinces and territories. While the provincial and territorial governments have expressed support, they are not required by law to comply with the inquiry’s process, meaning that important documents and evidence may be withheld.
Secondly, the coalition says, despite years of advocating for the inclusion of police conduct in the scope of the inquiry, the Government of Canada has left this important piece out of its terms of reference. Thirdly, the inquiry fails to provide families with mechanisms for redress. The coalition notes that “the Terms of Reference only provides the Commission with the authority to send families back to the local authorities whose very conduct is being questioned [.]”
Further, as feminist and advocate Fay Blaney has argued, the inquiry continues to exclude the knowledge of Indigenous women’s groups that approach the issue with a feminist lens.
“Decades of ceaseless work by women across the country calling for solutions grounded in Indigenous laws, has culminated in this inquiry,” reads a press release put together by the Coalition on Missing and Murdered Women and Girls. “The Coalition is pleased that the federal government has mandated the Inquiry to examine systemic causes of violence and has taken into account the needs of vulnerable communities and witnesses. However, given the importance and the promise of the Inquiry, we are deeply concerned about the gaps in the framework that stand to undermine the good intentions that have led to the formation of the inquiry.”