The federal government has announced the terms of a long-awaited inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, unveiling that it will need at least $13.8 million more for the study than was originally expected.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu attended an event at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., marking the end of the government’s work to design the scope of the study.
The process designed to be arm’s length from government once it is up and running on Sept. 1 is expected to last at least two years and cost at least $53.8 million.
The federal government originally earmarked $40 million in its budget for the study, but officials decided an additional $13.8 million will be needed.
Five commissioners will be responsible for carrying out the probe.
The commissioners are;
- Marion Buller; chief commissioner, B.C.’s first female First Nations judge
- Michele Audette; former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada
- Qajaq Robinson; An Ottawa-based, Nunavut-born lawyer who practices civil litigation with an emphasis on aboriginal law
- Marilyn Poitras; a professor at the University of Saskatchewan professor with a focus on indigenous law
- Brian Eyolfson; First Nations lawyer based in Ontario
Under the Inquiries Act, the commissioners will have the same powers as any court in a civil case to enforce the attendance of witnesses and compel them to give evidence.
They may also examine all papers, documents, vouchers, records and books belonging a public office or institution.
The launch of the inquiry shows the government is committed to honouring the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, Wilson-Raybould said Wednesday.
The minister has an intimate knowledge of the issue as a former B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.
By examining root causes including past and present systemic and institutional barriers the commission will play a key role in defining actions needed to protect the human rights of indigenous women and girls, she added.
The government said Wednesday that family information liaison units will provide centralized resources for families of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls and gather information during the inquiry process.
In May 2014, the RCMP released a report documenting 1,181 murdered and missing women between 1980 and 2012.
A year later, it said 32 aboriginal women had been murdered and 11 more had disappeared since it first reported on the issue.
The RCMP also noted there is an “unmistakable connection between homicide and family violence.”
The force said the relationship between victim and offender was particularly relevant because more than 90 per cent of the women in the homicide data were known to the offender.
Mistrust toward police forces and the need to examine officer conduct is also expected to be a central theme of the inquiry process.
It’s expected to be a highly emotional day for a number of advocates who have repeatedly called on Ottawa to open a national inquiry into the issue, but were long denied by the former Harper Conservative government
(The Canadian Press)