Mur­dered, miss­ing women in­quiry to break le­gal ground

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Cana­di­ans should not ex­pect to see hear­ings like those that un­fold in court­rooms dur­ing the course of the in­quiry into miss­ing and mur­dered in­dige­nous women, lead com­mis­sioner Mar­ion Buller said Tues­day.

The in­quiry will in­stead pro­vide a way for in­dige­nous peo­ple to tell their own sto­ries in their own way, Buller told a news con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa along with her fel­low com­mis­sion­ers and mem­bers of the in­quiry’s le­gal team.

The up­date was sched­uled amid grow­ing ques­tions about the sta­tus of the in­quiry and the re­cent re­moval of its for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor.

Buller said she un­der­stands many are anx­ious to see for­mal hear­ings be­gin, but she said the com­mis­sion would be ne­glect­ing its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties if it failed to en­sure an ap­pro­pri­ate setup was in place ahead of time.

“I un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion; I hear it,” Buller said. “You may hear it in our voices from time to time as well, but we also know that we have to do the job prop­erly — and that takes time.”

The na­tional in­quiry, which is still on sched­ule to be­gin in the spring of this year, will be un­like any­thing the coun­try has seen from a le­gal stand­point, added Su­san Vella, the lead coun­sel for the study.

“Right now, it is a very flex­i­ble con­cept, ob­vi­ously, and it has to be,” Vella said. “The com­mis­sion­ers are en­ti­tled to re­ceive in­for­ma­tion which might not oth­er­wise be ad­mis­si­ble in ev­i­dence in a court. This is a usual power of com­mis­sion­ers.”

The in­quiry will pro­vide dif­fer­ent op­tions as it goes about col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion, Vella said, and will in­clude les­bian, two-spirit and trans­gen­der peo­ple in the process.

She also said the com­mis­sion­ers will only go into com­mu­ni­ties where they are in­vited, not­ing they will ad­here to proper pro­to­cols de­pend­ing on the in­dige­nous ter­ri­tory.

“If the com­mu­nity is too trau­ma­tized and can­not han­dle the show of a public in­quiry com­ing in, then we will re­spect that.”

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has al­lo­cated $53.8 mil­lion for the two-year in­quiry.

Less than 10 per cent of this bud­get has been used, Buller said Tues­day, not­ing the com­mis­sion is fo­cused on us­ing its fund­ing on ev­i­dence-gath­er­ing, re­search and con­sult­ing with sur­vivors and fam­i­lies.

A spe­cific start date and lo­ca­tion for hear­ings has not been de­ter­mined but the in­quiry’s lo­gis­tics team is con­sid­er­ing a num­ber of op­tions, she added.

In­terim find­ings must be pre­sented in Novem­ber in a re­port.

The man­date of the in­quiry is to ex­am­ine the sys­temic causes of vi­o­lence against in­dige­nous women and girls but the com­mis­sion­ers are open to hear­ing from in­dige­nous men and boys who have rel­e­vant tes­ti­mony to pro­vide.

A foren­sic re­view of cases in­volv­ing men and boys will not be con­ducted, Vella said.

CP PHOTO

Mar­ion Buller (left), Chief Com­mis­sioner of the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered In­dige­nous Women and Girls, along with her col­league, com­mis­sioner Michele Audette, hold a news con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa on Tues­day.

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