Get this in­quiry back on track

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

Justin Trudeau’s sig­na­ture ef­fort to reach out to Canada’s First Na­tions is alien­at­ing them in­stead.

The fed­eral in­quiry into miss­ing and mur­dered in­dige­nous women was sup­posed to be the prime min­is­ter’s grand ges­ture of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

It was to be a sound­ing board for griev­ing fam­i­lies, recog­ni­tion of the scan­dalous lev­els of vi­o­lence that are de­stroy­ing the lives of na­tive women and girls, and a ve­hi­cle for the change ev­ery­one agrees must come.

It was also a way for Trudeau, in the hard-fought 2015 elec­tion, to dis­tin­guish him­self from the Con­ser­va­tives’ Stephen Harper, who as prime min­is­ter re­jected such an in­quiry.

But now, just six months into its two-year man­date, Trudeau’s in­quiry into miss­ing and mur­dered in­dige­nous women is, when it comes to achiev­ing its noble goals, miss­ing in ac­tion.

It has ac­com­plished lit­tle or noth­ing. It is mov­ing far too slowly.

It is not con­nect­ing with the peo­ple it is try­ing to help.

And it is wed­ded to ar­bi­trary dead­lines that could make it im­pos­si­ble to get the job done prop­erly.

Con­sider that the com­mis­sion will only start hear­ing tes­ti­mony from the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies on May 29 be­fore break­ing for the sum­mer.

The bulk of this vi­tal tes­ti­mony has been de­layed un­til au­tumn, which means pre­cious few in­dige­nous voices will be heard in the in­terim re­port due for re­lease on Nov. 1.

Just last week, fam­i­lies of vic­tims, in­dige­nous lead­ers and ad­vo­cates for those who had lost loved ones wrote the in­quiry’s chief com­mis­sioner, Mar­ion Buller, to say they fear the in­quiry is in “se­ri­ous trou­ble.”

The main prob­lem is “a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that is caus­ing frus­tra­tion, con­fu­sion and dis­ap­point­ment.”

Many First Na­tions com­mu­nity mem­bers who want to ad­dress the in­quiry have still not been con­tacted.

Also last week, the Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada is­sued a damn­ing re­port card that gave the in­quiry fail­ing grades on 10 out of 15 mea­sures.

The peo­ple run­ning this com­mis­sion, and the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment in charge of it all, must do bet­ter.

Trudeau was jus­ti­fied in ap­prov­ing the in­quiry and its $53.8-mil­lion bud­get be­cause First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties had earnestly and re­peat­edly pleaded for it.

Con­ducted prop­erly, the in­quiry could tell us more about the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the dis­ap­pear­ance or mur­der of roughly 1,200 abo­rig­i­nal women and girls in re­cent decades.

And if it re­sulted in pos­i­tive ac­tion, the in­quiry could help heal the rift be­tween in­dige­nous peo­ple and the rest of Canada.

But to­day, the in­quiry looks like a rud­der­less ship drift­ing to­ward the rocks.

There is sim­ply not enough time for the in­quiry com­mis­sion to ef­fec­tively achieve its goals by the dead­line of the fall of 2018.

Be­cause of this, the in­quiry com­mis­sion should seek a de­lay for when it must is­sue both its in­terim and fi­nal re­ports.

This work does not have to be done by 2018 to fit the Lib­er­als 2019 fed­eral elec­tion sched­ule. It must, how­ever, be done right. The gov­ern­ment has raised hopes for all Cana­di­ans. It should not dash them now.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.