April 19, 2017
OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE NATIONAL INQUIRY INTO MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS:
SUBJECT: Request for you to ensure the MMIWG Inquiry process responds to families’ needs Respectfully, we write you each as individual Commissioners to ask that you take leadership and immediately begin Part I of the Inquiry process that you labelled the “Family and Survivor Fact Gathering Hearings”.
We fully support how you have identified that Part 1 of your Inquiry process will start first. You have stated that it will hear from Indigenous families who have lost loved ones to violent, wrongful or suspicious death and/or inexplicable disappearance, Indigenous women and girls who have suffered, and may still be suffering, violence, including sexual violence, and members from communities who have lost loved ones.
Unfortunately, we are extremely disappointed that to date, we have no knowledge of Part 1 of the Inquiry process and it appears this process has not yet begun. You have not yet initiated meetings with: Manitoba survivors of violence or who were missing; families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; as well as First Nations and communities that are part of your mandate.
We note that numerous attempts have been made by MMIWG family members, political organizations, and service providers to engage you and your staff on various concerns. This includes correspondence and a press conference on March 7, 2017. Neither you, nor your staff, have substantively responded.
We are very cognizant of the ongoing delays and issues including staff turnover and delays in hiring and the April 15, 2017 “pause” for some Regional Advisory Meetings. We remain unclear if this delay is for the Manitoba region. Manitoba still remains without a Community Liaison Officer as part of the Inquiry’s Community Relations Team which is an integral aspect of engagement.
In August 8, 2016 correspondence to each of you, we requested that the Inquiry consider the Families First process. We note that Families First was both accepted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and by the Assembly of First Nations in 2015.
As noted to you then, and reiterated on February 28, 2017, the Families First process is based on extensive family consultation, social science and legal research. It proposed both tangible immediate and long-term systemic solutions to addressing MMIWG through four principal areas of work:
• Honouring Loved Ones;
• Immediate Actions;
• Public Policy Research on Systemic Long Term Issues; and
• Family Answers process
Accordingly, Indigenous families, women and girls cannot afford a “pause” in your process. We have heard directly from families of MMIWG they are quickly losing hope that your Inquiry will actually be relevant to them. We call on you, to, at a minimum, announce in the near future when you, as Commissioners, will finally go out and listen to our people. When Part 1 of the Inquiry process begins, we ask that you identify, at least, a Commissioner(s) who will be committed to begin hearings in Manitoba in the very near future.
Our request is not unreasonable. You must be aware that in Manitoba, women and girls have continued to be murdered and gone missing during your mandate. Unfortunately some families of MMIWG have already expressed lack of trust in your process. This must stop. Along with Families, all of Canada rely on your process to meaningfully examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors.
While there remains ongoing concerns with how you propose to reach your mandate, we have already sought to share what we have already identified regionally through Families First that includes what immediate actions, research, and ways to honour families can be done. We will also express our desire that your process provides their truth to the Inquiry while at the same time address their concern about the safety of individuals and the protection of personal information of individuals in your process. We agree that this Inquiry must be conducted in a trauma informed environment and that it is essential to ensure reconciliation as identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are maintained within an appropriate process of healing.
In closing, we reiterate that you immediately begin the Family and Survivor Fact Gathering Hearings as Part 1 of the Inquiry, and look forward to your commitment to work with our families, Nations and communities.
Chief Francine Meeches, Chair
First Nations Women’s Committee
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Sandra DeLaronde, Chair
Manitoba MMIWG Coalition