For the Record: Indigenous leaders on the MMIW inquiry

From government officials to indigenous stakeholders — some responses to the MMIW inquiry

Senator Murray Sinclair in his Parliament Hill office in Ottawa May 31, 2016. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

Senator Murray Sinclair in his Parliament Hill office in Ottawa May 31, 2016. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

For the record, we’re posting statements and quotes from government officials and Indigenous stakeholders on the official launch of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry.

Senator Murray Sinclair

“I am pleased to see that the governments of this country have been able to collaborate with Indigenous leaders and the families of Missing and Murdered Women and Girls in Canada to establish a National Inquiry, one of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“I congratulate the Native Women’s Association of Canada for its perseverance in bringing this about.

“I praise and honour the members of the victims’ families for their resilience and determination.

“I express my thanks to Judge Marion Buller and the other Commissioners for accepting the responsibility for this immense undertaking.

“Criticism of the creation of such inquiries is almost inevitable in this climate. However, whatever one thinks of the breadth and range of the terms of reference and the background and experience of the Commissioners, I am certain that the Commission will be revealing to all of Canada, and the world.

“We will learn of things that will be hard to believe, and we will be challenged to do what we cannot now imagine.

“In that way it will reflect the history of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and institutions. It will be an important opportunity for reconciliation to move forward in a significant way.”

Dwight Dorey, National Chief of the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of Canada (IPAC)

“Today’s announcement comes at a heavy price and we must all revere this day as a testament of the resiliency of all families affected by years of tragedies and the hard work of many.

“IPAC is encouraged that the work of Commissioners Marion Buller, Michele Audette, Brian Eyolfson, Marilyn Poitras and Qajaq Robinson, who are responsible for carrying forward on the work of the Inquiry, have the potential to eradicate this national tragedy and give families of missing and murdered loved ones the opportunity to be listened to, receive justice and heal.

“Ultimately, all levels of government and policing agencies must bear the responsibility for a change that is immediate, tangible and measured. What is learned through this Inquiry must drive change that respects the wisdom of our peoples and their culture.”

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

“For over a decade, the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have been demanding action. 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.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“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. 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.”

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women

“This team will bring a depth and mix of personal, academic and professional experiences to the task of listening, documenting and seeking to bring to light the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada and to make recommendations for effective action.”

Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

“This is 2016. Inuit did not have a commissioner on the Truth and Reconcilation Commission. We expected to have a voice to reflect us as one of the three constitutionally recognized Aboriginal Peoples in Canada on this National Commission of Inquiry.

“Our hope is this Inquiry will visit the Arctic as Inuit define it. We call it Inuit Nunangat. It means our homeland. There are four distinct regions. From east to west they are Nunatsiavut in Labrador, Nunavik in northern Quebec, Nunavut, and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the NWT. There are 53 Inuit communities in those four regions, and only 15 of them have women’s shelter. On the issue women’s shelters we will be pushing to ensure that much more funding for shelters be made available to our Inuit communities.

“The road to social justice on any issue is a challenging one. Our job as the national voice of Inuit women is to continually express our priorities and concerns with the government. I am confident we have done that. We have been critical, and we remain critical on the day of the launch. In 2016 it is not acceptable that the Inuit women of Canada do not have an Inuk as a commissioner.”

Don Rusnak, Indigenous Caucus Chair and MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River

“Today is a historic day; it is another step towards reconciliation and ending this national tragedy. I applaud the work of Minister Bennett, Minister Wilson-Raybould, and Minister Hajdu, and of the families of the victims who fought so hard to make this inquiry happen. I am confident that the members of this commission will handle the Inquiry with the great care that it requires. The team they have assembled has the personal and professional experience to get at the root causes of the unacceptable level of violence against our Indigenous women and girls. Our communities have waited a long time for such decisive action to be taken on this file.”

Michael McLeod, MP for Northwest Territories and Member of Indigenous Caucus

“I would like to congratulate and thank Ministers Bennett, Wilson-Raybould and Hajdu on the significant amount of work and preparation that has gone into today’s announcement on the National Inquiry. I would also like to wish the very capable Commissioners strength and perseverance for their task ahead. It will be a challenge to both review the sad history of families’ losses as well as provide us with the direction on how to protect our most vulnerable.”

Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of Native Women’s Association of Canada

“We welcome the leadership shown by the Federal government today. After 11 years of NWAC listening to the families of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, we are pleased that we now have a government who is prepared to listen and act. We want to acknowledge the great responsibility that the Commissioners have undertaken and commit to support them as they start this work. We recognize that five people cannot represent the diversity of our country and NWAC will work with the National Inquiry to ensure that all voices that need to be heard will be heard.”

Cathy McLeod, Official Opposition Critic for Indigenous Affairs and Member of Parliament for Kamloops – Thompson – Cariboo

“Having spent many years as a nurse in Indigenous, rural communities, I too-frequently witnessed first-hand the pain and the violence against women and girls. There is a need to take action in way that will make a real difference.

“The Conservative Party supports the public inquiry, as long as it remains focused on reducing these horrific tragedies and achieving measurable improvements in the day-to-day lives of Indigenous women and girls.

“As families of victims have expressed, justice is needed for these terrible crimes, and not just more resolutions and recommendations. We urge the Government to provide police with the resources they need to bring perpetrators to justice. Sentencing should reflect the serious nature of the crime. We are concerned about the Liberals’ movement away from appropriate sentences for violent crimes.

“The Liberal Government has increased the budget from $40 million, stated in Budget 2016, to $53 million, which already represents a 33% increase. The Liberals will need to ensure that costs and timelines are kept under control as the inquiry moves forward.

“The Commissioners made a commitment to developing concrete recommendations, and we will be monitoring to see if they materially improve on the more than 40 reports with recommendations that already exist.”

Sheila Malcolmson, NDP Status of Women Critic and Member of Parliament for Nanaimo – Ladysmith

“The existence of this inquiry is thanks to the tireless work of Indigenous women, activists, survivors of violence and the families of missing and murdered women, girls and two-spirited people who never gave up their search for justice, who never accepted a no from any government. This inquiry is a very important first step, but we still have a long way to go to achieve closure for families who have suffered thought the tragic loss or disappearance of a loved one.”

Georgina Jolibois, NDP Deputy Critic for Indigenous and Northern Affairs and Member of Parliament for Desnethé – Missinippi – Churchill River

“I am hearing the desire for law enforcement to be involved and given the necessary resources to solve cold cases of missing Indigenous women from all over Saskatchewan; cases like that of my friend, Myrna Laprise, and her family, who want to know what happened to her aunt who disappeared years ago.”

Romeo Saganash NDP Intergovernmental Aboriginal Affairs Critic and Member of Parliament for Abitibi – Baie-James – Nunavik – Eeyou

“The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that particular attention must be paid to the rights and special needs of Indigenous women and that States must take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination. I am hopeful that justice can finally happen and Indigenous families can have closure at last.”

Lisa Bourque-Bearskin, president of Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association (CINA)

“This long-overdue initiative is a landmark moment for Indigenous families who have lost a loved one. We are hopeful that this inquiry will lead to concrete actions in reducing violence against Indigenous women across the country. We also call for a thorough analysis of law enforcement and systemic deconstruction of the Indian Act to ensure a greater equity in protection services for Indigenous women in Canada.

Anne Sutherland Boal, CEO of Canadian Nurses Association (CNA)

“This is an important and long-awaited inquiry to finally address the unacceptable violence against Indigenous women. We expect this inquiry will directly involve and consult Indigenous groups broadly throughout Canada, including CINA and families who have lost a loved one, so they can rest assured that concrete actions will be taken to reduce this violence against Indigenous women.”

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