About the National Inquiry and Its Final Report

Girls and boys from the 13 provinces and territories hand the report to the provincial representatives during the ceremony.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was announced in December 2015, and officially began its work in September 2016. Two-and-a-half years later, despite the resignation of various commissioners and staff persons and lack of cooperation from the federal government to facilitate its work, it released its 1,071-page final report on June 3, in the Grand Hall of the Museum of History in Gatineau. The mandate of the inquiry was "to gather evidence, and to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors."

The inquiry's final report, entitled Reclaiming Power and Place, concluded that murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls are part of an overall genocide against Indigenous peoples in Canada. The final report is divided into 11 chapters of findings plus 231 recommendations, or "Calls for Justice." There are also two supplemental reports: a 159-page report focused on experiences in Quebec, with 21 recommendations; and a 46-page report focused on the inquiry's genocide analysis.

The key factor in the inquiry coming into being and issuing its final report has been the tenacity of the friends and families of the victims, who refused to permit their sisters, daughters, mothers and aunties to be dismissed and forgotten. Also decisive were the efforts of all those who are fighting to see that there are no more victims and that the Canadian state's colonial outlook, and its refusal to uphold nation-to-nation relations and to fulfill all of its responsibilities to the Indigenous peoples is ended.

Altogether 2,380 people participated in the $90-million national inquiry, including 468 survivors and families. More than 1,000 hours of testimony from survivors, witnesses, and families informed the inquiry's report. Many others were unable to participate for various reasons, including the Liberal government's denial of the commissioners' request for increased funding and a two-year extension of the inquiry's timeline so more people could be heard.

Even as the inquiry was carrying out its work, more than 130 Indigenous women and girls were reported to be victims of homicide, or whose deaths were deemed suspicious, or who died while in institutional care, according to two databases -- a rate of at least three deaths per month. The inquiry said it could not determine a count for the number of MMIWG cases over the decades and across the country. However, it considers the 2014 RCMP figures that report 1,181 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls between 1980 and 2012 as likely to be an underestimate. The Native Women's Association of Canada puts the number closer to 3,000. "No one knows an exact number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada," says the report. "Thousands of women's deaths or disappearances have likely gone unrecorded over the decades, and many families likely did not feel ready or safe to share with the National Inquiry before our timelines required us to close registration."

Regardless, the figures show both the indifference of the state authorities to MMIWG, plus the pressing need for immediate action to address these ongoing crimes. The report points out that the genocide of which MMIWG are a part "has been empowered by colonial structures, evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Inuit, Métis and First Nations rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide of Indigenous populations."

The four national inquiry commissioners -- Chief Commissioner Marion Buller, and Commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Qajaq Robinson and Michèle Audette -- presented their report at a ceremony with some 500 people present. Attendees included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, heads of national and regional Indigenous organizations and many politicians, including leaders of the NDP, the Conservative Party and the Green Party.

At the ceremony, Chief Commissioner Buller said the truths made public in the final report "cannot be unheard," and that the 231 calls for justice in the final report are not mere recommendations but "legal imperatives" which must be implemented. She said, "Although we have been mandated to provide recommendations, it must be understood that these recommendations, which we frame as 'Calls for Justice,' are legal imperatives -- they are not optional. The Calls for Justice arise from international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter, the Constitution, and the Honour of the Crown. As such, Canada has a legal obligation to fully implement these Calls for Justice and to ensure Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people live in dignity."

At a press conference later, Buller pointed out that the source of the ongoing violence against Indigenous women and girls is to be found in the Canadian state and its policies, noting, "The Canadian state has, and continues, to enact laws and enforce policies that perpetuate the violation of human and Indigenous rights. This is colonization. This is discrimination. This is genocide. There needs to be a transformational change in how we build and maintain relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people."

The inquiry's 231 calls for justice include 46 Inuit-specific, 29 Métis-specific, and 32 2SLGBTQQIA-specific calls. Other calls are divided by subject area -- from culture to health and wellness, to human security, to justice. There are industry-specific calls as well, for media and social influencers, attorneys and law societies, educators, health and wellness service providers, social workers, police and transportation services, the hospitality industry, the resource extraction and development industries, and others. There was also calls for all Canadians to read the final report and become informed about the historic violence against Indigenous women and girls and to stand with Indigenous peoples to hold all governments to account and ensure that the recommendations made in the final report are implemented.

For the National Inquiry's 231 Calls for Justice click here.

To read the full report click here: Volume 1a and Volume 1b.

To read the Supplementary Report -- Genocide, click here.

(Photos: National Inquiry into MMIWG, Canadian Women's Foundation)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 21 - June 8, 2019

Article Link:
About the National Inquiry and Its Final Report - Barbara Biley


Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  editor@cpcml.ca