First Nations Summit cautiously welcomes the National Inquiry terms of reference

Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver – The First Nations Summit welcomed the long-awaited launch of a nation-wide inquiry into the tragic and urgent matter of Indigenous women and girls going missing or being found murdered across the country. However, the Summit is concerned that the terms of reference for the five-member commission may repeat mistakes of past processes.

“Today’s launch of a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls is long overdue and is a matter that should be of great concern to all Canadians,” stated Robert Phillips, a member of the First Nations Summit political executive. “A highly disproportionate number of women and girls from our communities have gone missing over many decades, or have been found murdered. Often these cases remain unsolved, leaving families without answers or closure. This injustice deeply hurts our communities and they deserve answers and healing.”

“The First Nations Summit has advocated for serious attention to be paid to this situation for many years,” said Grand Chief Edward John, also a member of the First Nations Summit political executive. “In the early to mid-1990s, information was provided to us about the rate of disappearance of Indigenous women and girls, particularly in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. We immediately wrote to then Attorney General, Ujjal Dosanjh, calling for a report on the status and nature of investigations into specific cases.”

John continued, “The First Nations Summit has remained highly concerned with this situation, and participated in the provincial Murdered and Missing Women Inquiry launched in 2010, lead by Hon. Wally Oppal. We made a statement to the Commission, calling for a comprehensive examination into the violence experienced by so many women and girls from our communities across the province and country. We identified the need to shed light into the dark corners of such violence and its root causes, and to address the systemic failures of the law enforcement and justice system toward our people.

“Unfortunately, the scope of that inquiry did not address the full range of matters and limited participation by key groups. This lead to grave doubts about the thoroughness and effectiveness of the inquiry.”

“We welcome Minister Bennett’s commitment that the national inquiry launched by the Government of Canada will be an examination of the underlying and deep, systemic challenges of violence, including racism, sexism and the sustained impact of colonialism. We encourage the Commission to be courageous in its examination, leaving no stone unturned,” said Cheryl Casimer, also a member of the First Nations Summit political executive. “Families deserve to know what happened to their loved ones, and it is absolutely imperative that systemic changes are made and measures taken to prevent and end violence against Indigenous women and girls.”

She added, “The First Nations Summit is deeply concerned that the terms of reference for the commission excludes critical elements, namely policing and compelling legal authority for provinces and territories to make this a truly national inquiry. We cannot miss this opportunity to get it right – to ensure that the scope of the commission’s mandate is inclusive of the entire system. We strongly encourage the Prime Minister and Ministers Bennett, Wilson-Raybould and Hajdu to take measures to ensure the inquiry is comprehensive and inclusive.”

Grand Chief John added, “The First Nations Summit’s involvement and advocacy around missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has been to unequivocally support the need for justice for the victims and their families, and to ensure that changes are implemented system-wide not only to prevent violence from occurring, but to also ensure supports are in place to support the dignity, survival and well-being of all our communities.” He continued, “the Government of Canada’s unequivocal support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must help guide this important examination and inform the outcomes. The First Nations Summit will be closely monitoring the inquiry as it proceeds.”

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