GATINEAU, Que. — After working to design and shape the inquiry into the tragic phenomenon of missing and murdered indigenous women, the federal government on Wednesday handed over the reins to the five commissioners who will oversee the effort.
Ceejai Julian, who lost two sisters, wipes her eye during the announcement of the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Aug. 3, 2016. (Photo: Justin Tang/CP)
Here are five things to know about the inquiry:
1. It is already $13.8 million more expensive than the government originally anticipated.
The federal government had originally budgeted $40 million for the inquiry over the next two years. The federal government disclosed Wednesday the commission will need more money to fulfil its mandate. Some critics say they fear the final price tag could end up being even higher than $53.8 million.
2. The government will be flexible on the timeline.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has stressed the need for the inquiry to be done properly, meaning the federal government is open to the possibility that the commissioners need more than two years to finish their work. Aside from providing the necessary funds and timing, the federal government is to remain at arm's length during the process.
3. It will be up to indigenous leaders to comply with commissioners.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Bennett said it will be up to indigenous leaders to work in co-operation with commissioners as they go about their research. Some women, such as Ojibway activist Joan Jack from Manitoba, say they are concerned about violence experienced among indigenous women in communities.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett speaks during the announcement of the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. (Photo: Justin Tang/CP)
One question lingers: to what extent will commissioners be able to work inside communities to explore what is going on? Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said he is confident chiefs will work in partnership with the commissioners. The body will also have to examine violence in urban centres as well.
4. Money has been earmarked for victims services and for family liaison services.
The federal government announced funding Wednesday of $16.2 million over the next four years for victims' services and to create liaison units to assist families. The measures are designed to ensure families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls feel connected to the inquiry process as it proceeds.
5. The commissioners will release non-legally binding recommendations at the end of the inquiry.
At the end of the inquiry, the commissioners are expected to release recommendations for governments — provincial, territorial and federal. While they will be able to compel witnesses during their work, as stipulated in the Inquiries Act, they will not be able to force governments to comply with their findings. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 calls to action last year and various levels of government are working on implementing those recommendations.