Undue delays undermine inquiry
This appeared in the Toronto Star:
The Trudeau government’s decision to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls has provided new hope to First Nations families that they would finally get overdue answers about the violence that has long affected their communities.
But apparent inefficiency and undue delays are threatening to undermine that hope. The likelihood that the commission will meet its deadline to file an interim report by Nov. 1 looks increasingly remote. Given the history, this simply looks like bad planning. And there’s no reason why the commission couldn’t at least hold hearings in urban areas where more than half of all indigenous people live.
The commission is fully aware of the human costs of delay. In February the chief commissioner of the inquiry, B.C. Judge Marion Buller, acknowledged “the impatience and frustration” surrounding how long it has taken to get the hearings underway.
Of course, she was right when she said the inquiry must be conducted in “a thoughtful and purposeful way.” That goes without saying. But there is no excuse for the delays or this latest promise of suspension.
We know this sort of work can be done both sensitively and quickly. Consider that the three ministers responsible for establishing the commission — Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, and then-status of women minister Patty Hajdu — heard from 2,100 participants and received 4,100 online submissions in a mere two months leading up to the start of the inquiry.
If the commissioners cannot soon demonstrate that they can get this vital inquiry on track, the Trudeau government should look to leadership that can.