Get this inquiry back on track
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.