(The Canadian Press)

Indigenous women says families, survivors ‘disrespected’ by inquiry

Native Women’s Association of Canada points to lack transparency, focus and certainty over extension

A prominent Aboriginal women’s group is giving more dismal grades to Canada’s national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, saying it lacks transparency, focus and certainty over whether it will get a badly needed extension on its most critical assignment.

In its latest report card on the troubled inquiry, the Native Women’s Association of Canada says chronic challenges are obscuring the needs of victims and survivors, with the unanswered question of its request for a two-year deadline extension adding to the uncertainty.

“Families felt the disorganization was disrespectful to them. Now we’re in the last stage, unless we get this extension, and it’s a rushed process,” said association president Francyne D. Joe, calling it “sad” that proper steps were not taken from the very beginning, when the inquiry was launched.

“When you hear anything about this national inquiry, it’s focusing on the turnover of staff rather than the stories [people] are sharing with the commissioners.”

READ MORE: Final leg of national missing women inquiry begins in B.C.

The association gave failing grades to five of the 15 areas it measured. Five other additional areas were classified as needing more action; only three got a pass. Two areas received no grades at all due to a lack of suitable information, the association said.

Still, that was an improvement over the last assessment, which failed the inquiry on 10 of the 15 reference points.

The latest report cited a persistent failure to communicate, calling it evidence that the inquiry has not acknowledged its part in the harm caused to families and survivors. The report, which spans the period between May 2017 to March of this year, was itself delayed because of the inquiry’s ongoing issues, including the appointment of a fifth new executive director.

Joe said when the inquiry was announced in August 2016, there was an assumption that commissioners would meet with families across the country when hearings began. “We had instead months where nothing was happening, phone calls not being taken, emails not being accepted.”

While there’s been plenty of inquiry communication taking place on social media, there are a lot of families without access to the internet who don’t understand the process, she added.

Joe said families told her they were given the wrong phone number to reach officials. She said others were told they would receive a follow-up call, only to end up waiting by the phone.

Communication has improved since the beginning of the inquiry, she acknowledged, but the focus lately has been on chronic staff turnover, as well as whether the government intends to grant the inquiry’s request for more time to meet its goals.

In March, the inquiry requested a two-year extension of its mandate, which would give commissioners until Dec. 31, 2020, to make recommendations and produce its findings. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett did not take questions before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting; calls to her department were not immediately returned.

“I do hope the federal government, that Minister Bennett, considers an extension so the families who haven’t been heard can share their stories, so the families promised an inquiry in their communities can still have those visits,” Joe said.

The deadline for the inquiry to release its final report is the end of this year, but Joe suggested the inquiry should “start doing things now.”

“Families don’t want a report to sit on the shelf, they want something to show other governments that we recognize issues around missing and murdered Indigenous women and this is how we’re going to stop this and protect our women.”

Janice Dickson , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Alberni hosts Island track and field championship

Secondary schools compete at Bob Dailey Stadium

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

200,000 salmon smolts released in netpens for Alberni salmon enhancement

West Coast Aquatic has released 205,000 chinook smolts into two net pens… Continue reading

Virtual simulation engages users in the event of a tsunami hitting Port Alberni

A team from the University of Victoria display a tsunami simulation at the 2018 #BCTECH Summit

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Whitecaps rally for 2-2 draw with FC Dallas

Vancouver climbed out of a two-nil hole to tie FC Dallas 2-2

B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Searchers for Vancouver Island father turn focus to Cowichan River

Cowichan SAR joined by many other SAR groups, volunteers now determined to find missing man

Most Read