Buried deep in the first report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous and Girls is something families and survivors have been calling for since the beginning – a way to reopen police investigations.
The inquiry is recommending the Trudeau government works with provinces and territories to create a national police task force.
“Which the National Inquiry could refer families and survivors to assess or reopen or review investigations,” the inquiry’s interim report says that was released Wednesday.
Families and survivors have been critical of the inquiry because it lacks the ability to reopen investigations and hold police to account.
While police have been central in almost every witness that has gone before the inquiry, commissioners can only refer new information on murdered and missing women and girls back to police.
The task force is one of 10 procedural recommendations made in the report on page 81.
Others call on Ottawa to find a way to provide contact information of families to the inquiry, project funding to help Indigenous organizations participate in the inquiry, immediately provide additional funding to Health Canada’s Resolution Health Support program.
It also calls for Canada to start looking at the feasibility of restoring the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
It appears the inquiry is asking for more time to complete its work, which it has already publicly said.
“Given the short timeframe of the National Inquiry and the urgency of establishing robust administrative structures and processes, that the federal government provide alternatives and options to its administrative rules to enable the National Inquiry to fulfill the terms of its mandate,” the report says as the final recommendation.
The report also calls for immediate action on implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations and other reports completed over the years.
The inquiry said one of its biggest challenge is operating a public inquiry as defined by Canadian law.
“We are also still attempting to recognize the jurisdiction of many different Indigenous legal systems, in addition to the 14 geo-political jurisdictions in Canada,” the report says.
Another challenge is the federal government didn’t get approval from families to allow their contact information to be passed on the inquiry.
“This has left families and survivors frustrated and confused about how to become a witness,” the report says.
Other challenges include the hiring of staff and delays in setting up offices due to federal government procurement and contracting policies. This resulted in an eight-month delay before offices could be opened.
“We cannot know what contributions your loved ones would have made if they had been able to live in peace. But we do know that families, communities, Indigenous Nations, and all of Canada are so much poorer for their loss,” wrote the commissioners.
“There is no doubt that the loss of Indigenous women and girls to all forms of violence is a national tragedy. It has traumatized generations of families, and it will continue to traumatize communities if we do not commit to action and change.”
The purpose of the inquiry is to develop recommendations to address the systemic violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Shining a light on all the causes of violence, murders, and disappearances is a daunting task. But it is a necessary one. We are exposing hard truths,” the commissioners say.
The commissioners are holding a media conference in Ottawa Wednesday.
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