Chiefs call for changes to in­quiry

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - KRISTY KIRKUP

First Na­tions Chiefs gath­ered at the Assem­bly of First Na­tions an­nual meet­ing in Regina passed a res­o­lu­tion late Thurs­day call­ing for changes to the na­tional in­quiry into miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls.

The res­o­lu­tion calls upon the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­set and change the man­date and process of the in­quiry.

A sec­ond res­o­lu­tion call­ing for an over­haul and for Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to re­place the com­mis­sion­ers

did not pass.

Prior to the Thurs­day’s vote, the Assem­bly of First Na­tions Na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde said the lead­ers were di­vided on what to do about the trou­bled in­quiry.

Some want a re­set of the com­mis­sion while others want res­ig­na­tions from the four com­mis­sion­ers, Bel­le­garde said in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press prior to a vote on res­o­lu­tions at a Regina meet­ing of chiefs.

Bel­le­garde is steer­ing a mid­dle course, say­ing the com­mis­sion needs to fo­cus all of its en­ergy on en­sur­ing the sto­ries of fam­i­lies are front and cen­tre, adding it is crit­i­cal for the com­mis­sion to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“Our chiefs are di­vided,” he said. “Some want a to­tal re­set, some want to start fresh, and then there are others that are say­ing, ‘You know, we should be em­pow­er­ing those com­mis­sion­ers, we should be sup­port­ing those com­mis­sion­ers, we should be pray­ing for those com­mis­sion­ers be­cause they have a tough job, they’re deal­ing with hurt and pain.’”

The in­quiry has spent weeks fend­ing off crit­i­cism from some fam­i­lies who have loudly ex­pressed con­cern about the process and the re­cent res­ig­na­tions of se­nior staffers and a com­mis­sioner, Mar­i­lyn Poitras.

Two of the re­main­ing com­mis­sion­ers — Michele Audette and Brian Ey­olf­son — ad­dressed some of those con­cerns di­rectly Wed­nes­day night at the AFN meet­ing.

There are also fam­ily mem­bers en­cour­ag­ing the com­mis­sion­ers, Audette said Wed­nes­day.

“There’s a silent group … that are say­ing, ‘Stay, don’t give up,’” she told re­porters. “We hear that, too.”

An­other theme that has emerged at the meet­ing is con­cern about po­lice fail­ing to con­duct ad­e­quate in­ves­ti­ga­tions into miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women and girls across Canada, Bel­le­garde said Thurs­day, adding polic­ing must be a pri­or­ity dur­ing the course of the com­mis­sion’s work.

“The fam­i­lies wanted to make sure, the chiefs wanted to make sure, that the terms of ref­er­ence for the miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women in­quiry (are) broad enough and ex­pan­sive enough to re­view ... po­lice ser­vices that im­pact our peo­ple on daily ba­sis,” he said.

“As na­tional chief, I would en­cour­age the com­mis­sion­ers to use their pow­ers and push the en­ve­lope ... to en­sure that all po­lice ser­vices are re­viewed, that they ques­tioned, and hope­fully some rec­om­men­da­tions brought for­ward to fix what ob­vi­ously is not work­ing.”

The na­tional in­quiry can and will con­sider the con­duct of polic­ing ser­vices and poli­cies across Canada in 14 fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial ju­ris­dic­tions, com­mis­sion spokesper­son Bernee Bolton said in a state­ment.

Depend­ing on the prov­ince, there are dif­fer­ences in the pow­ers of the na­tional in­quiry to con­sider po­lice con­duct, she added, not­ing there is a foren­sic team cur­rently re­view­ing po­lice files.

There’s a silent group … that are say­ing, ‘Stay, don’t give up.’



AFN Na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde wants com­mis­sion­ers to ‘push the en­ve­lope.’

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