Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister mandated by PM to hold inquiry

OTTAWA—Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett has been mandated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work towards initiating an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women (MMIW).

Anishinabek News reported on November 26 that a mandate letter had been sent from Mr. Trudeau to Minister Bennett. The letter states that she “develop in collaboration with the Minister of Justice, and supported by the Minister of the Status of Women, an approach to and a mandate for, an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls in Canada, including the identification of a lead minister.”

“It’s going to happen, I know this one is going to happen,” Glen Hare, deputy grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation told the Recorder. “And it is very encouraging but I want to see the inquiry get started.”

“I’m uplifted by this news, but I want to see it take place,” said Chief Hare. “The Liberal government promised the inquiry would take place and this is certainly a step forward in that direction. They are also still talking about other things like the Truth and Reconciliation commission, housing, education, and more that are on the radar, and about talking promises, which is good.”

Chief Hare pointed out in the discussion of an inquiry, “there are a lot of people in Canada that have gone missing, not just First Nation people, but everyone, and this inquiry is necessary.”

Ms. Bennett, since receiving the letter from Mr. Trudeau, has affirmed the federal government commitment to holding an inquiry and emphasized that “we can get started now.” She noted the need for pre-inquiry consultation to be held and the need to engage with the Indigenous community soon to get their important input.

Anishinabek Nation Women’s council member Donna Debassige agrees. “I am very pleased that the federal government is finally calling this long-awaited inquiry and is seeking advice from our organizations and territories,” she told Anishinabek News. “Our women and girls deserve to be respected and recognized for the important role they play. They’re our daughters, sisters, nieces, aunties and mothers and they deserve dignity, justice and respect. Our bereaved families need answers and justice in order to have closure.”

Minister Bennett said, “we need to listen to the families that were involved so we can get it right.” She hopes that the inquiry can begin by the summer of 2016 and said, “we look forward to contributing to this truth seeking and initiative.”

Anishinabek News reported that Minister Bennett also stressed the government is committing to taking action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations as a means to stopping this tragedy. She feels action needs to be taken on mental health, housing, child welfare and other issues frequently characterizing aboriginal communities in Canada.

The minster stressed the federal government’s commitment to renewing the relationship between Canada and indigenous people was of prime importance. Her mandate letter states, “your overarching goal will be to renew the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples. The renewal must be a nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition, rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. I expect you re-engage in a renewed nation-to-nation process with indigenous peoples to make real progress on the issues most important to First Nations, the Metis Nation, and Inuit community-issues like housing, employment, health and mental health care, community safety policing, child welfare, and education.”