Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls will have a say on designing a national police task force, something the national inquiry called on the Trudeau government to develop Wednesday.
The recommendation was part of the interim report released by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.
“It’s a recommendation that we are proposing or demanding here in this report but … the families and survivors have a say on how and who should be sitting on that task force,” said Commissioner Michele Audette.
That includes having Indigenous officers on the task force.
The task force would have the ability to reopen or review cold cases if the Trudeau government agrees to it.
“They have questions and they desperately want answers about what happened to their lost loved ones, why investigations were stopped, why leads weren’t followed up on,” said Chief Commissioner Marion Buller.
“It’s vital for their healing that they do find out.”
The inquiry’s mandate doesn’t allow it to reopen cases, only refer new evidence back to police for possible investigation.
“This is a problem we have been facing form the very beginning,” said Buller. “Families who are living with questions for generations they don’t fall neatly into that little box, so what we need to do is provide them with an opportunity or a venue to get the answers.”
She said the inquiry has already been told of possible new evidence during hearings with families across the country. They expect to hand that over to police soon, said Buller.
The inquiry is also asking the federal government for more time to complete its work as it is scheduled to wrap up next year within its current two-year mandate.
They also need more money.
But Buller stopped short of saying how much more time and money is needed.
She did say the inquiry has spent or allocated about a third of its current budget of $53.8 million.
She referred to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission having five years to look into the damage caused by Indian Residential Schools, where children were taken from their families and placed in church-run and state-funded schools for over 100 years. The last one closed in 1994.
“That was a problem that was historical. Our problems that we’re looking at, or issues, are historical and ongoing,” said Buller.
“Today, as we’re here in this women Indigenous women and girls are suffering violence that somehow has become normalized. That is a national tragedy.”
She said it comes down to how long it’s going to take to do the inquiry right.
So far, 900 people have added their names to the list to be witnesses at a hearing, including 100 just last month.
“As we are gaining momentum we are gaining numbers of people who want to talk to us,” said Buller.
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