Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry Launch Coming Next Week

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Details of a long-awaited national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are expected to be released Wednesday, sources tell CBC News.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said last week that an announcement was "very close." Sources who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity said they have been told the announcement will come Aug. 3.

The Liberal government is facing criticism that the inquiry will "lack teeth" after a draft of the terms of reference was obtained by CBC News last week.

carolyn bennett
Indigenous Affairs Minister Caroyln Bennett speaks during a news conference on missing, murdered indigenous women in Ottawa on February 15, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

According to the draft document, the inquiry would largely focus on violence prevention.

It says commissioners will be given the broad mandate to identify systemic causes of violence and recommend "concrete action" to help end violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Families and advocates expressed disappointment the document makes no specific mention of police investigations, an issue that came up at all 17 pre-inquiry consultations held earlier this year.

"One of the big things that families were concerned with were the investigations and the conduct of the investigations. So one of my clients would tell me they think that it is missing," said Toronto lawyer Christa Big Canoe.

The document also directs commissioners not to interfere with ongoing criminal investigations and discourages them from recommending civil or criminal liability of a person or organization.

While the draft doesn't explicitly state the need to examine the role of police, Bennett told The Canadian Press a national inquiry would review "the uneven application of justice," including police conduct.

5 commissioners, but no Inuk woman?

The draft document also says five commissioners would be appointed but doesn't name them.

Inuit leader Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, said last Friday that she had seen a list of the chosen commissioners and blasted Ottawa for not including an Inuk woman among them.

"Once again a non-Inuk will be speaking for us," Kudloo said.

"I cannot understand how in 2016 we are still not being included in our own right as full participants in these historic opportunities. To us, this does not feel like it is 2016 for all women in Canada."

When the first phase of the national inquiry was announced last December, Liberal ministers pledged the process would include families of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Some 17 pre-inquiry consultations were held across the country to hear from families and community leaders to help design the second phase of the inquiry.

'It's all rumoured on Facebook'

But some families now say they feel shut out of the process. They're frustrated with the lack of communication from the government about delays and the details of the inquiry.

"It's all rumoured on Facebook and social media. And we heard it through a back door, through somebody knowing somebody who knew something," said Mag Cywink, who lost her sister Sonya in 1994, in an interview with CBC News.

"Almost every Aboriginal person here … we went and voted for [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau]. Now, I think it was a mistake," said Joyce Gabriel, whose 20-year-old daughter, Rocelyn, froze to death in Portage la Prairie, Man., in 2014.

Minister Bennett said last week she would consult with families before the official inquiry announcement is made.

According to the draft document, the inquiry will aim to hear from the people directly affected.

It will travel to Indigenous communities across the country to gather statements in what is described as an "informal" and "culturally sensitive" probe.

Bennett had hoped the government would be in a position to announce the launch of an inquiry in the spring, and the date of the announcement has been a source of speculation for weeks.

Negotiations with the provinces and territories on the focus and scope of the inquiry were still being worked out as recently as last week.

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