Second chance at justice
Inside the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry
Families who believe investigators gave short shrift to their lost loved ones cases hope to have a second chance at justice as the next phase in the national inquiry murdered and missing indigenous women and girls begins.
Canada’s first indigenous attorney general, Jody WilsonRaybould, said the five-person commission can recommend to law enforcement that a criminal investigation be launched.
There is flexibility, under the inquiry’s mandate, for the commissioners, led by B.C. indigenous judge Marion Buller, to figure out how justice can be achieved for the families, said Wilson-Raybould, a former B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations and a member of the We Wai Kai Nation.
“But it also speaks to their ability in hearing the lived experiences of the families and the survivors, the ability to refer specific cases to the appropriate authorities, be it the police or the attorneys general of the provinces or territories, referring the case in terms where there may be the need for more investigations or more findings,” said Wilson-Raybould.
Witnesses can be compelled to testify before the inquiry and to summon all documents needed, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said. However, the inquiry does not have power to conduct its own criminal investigation. Cases must be referred to the police for that to happen, she said.
“The families who feel the death of their loved ones were called a suicide or an accident or an overdose as opposed to a murder, those patterns are the
Denise Maloney-Pictou, whose mother Annie Mae Pictou was found dead in 1976
kinds of things the commissioners will have to look into,” Bennett told a press conference at the Canadian Museum of History on Wednesday.
But criminal examinations can’t take place in the inquiry itself because it “is not a criminal court,” said Bennett.
Some families are upset, however, that the inquiry was not given the teeth needed to reopen cases.
“This is the problem. Families wanted inquiry to reopen,” indigenous activist and lawyer Pam Palmater told the Star via Twitter, referring to sending cases back to provincial or territorial authorities.
This is a historic day.
Bridget Tolley, whose mother Gladys was killed in 2001,
is embraced after the announcement of the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women in Gatineau, Que., on Wednesday.