The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIW) was one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s many election promises aimed at the Indigenous population. The promise is one of the few he has delivered on, launching the inquiry shortly after the 2015 election with the promise to listen to families.
The recent resignation of inquiry commissioner Marilyn Poitras is, however, just the latest sign that the inquiry is struggling to fulfill its mandate and in need of a reboot. Many Indigenous leaders are calling for an inquiry grounded in cultural beliefs and processes led by community members. They want the existing framework to be dismantled and replaced with a more community driven model; the inquiry must also focus on the resiliency of the Indigenous community as much as violence against its women. Ultimately, for these leaders, the process must be about healing just as much as a quest for answers.
Since its inception the inquiry has been flawed. Bureaucracy is driving the process, losing sight of the inquiry’s goal: justice for the victims and increased safety for Indigenous women and girls. Families feel ignored and frustrated.
The election of Prime Minister Trudeau brought hope for Indigenous people. His promises of reconciliation and renewed nation to nation relationships certainly evoked the best of those sunny ways. The Prime Minister’s thoughtful and fresh approach to working with Indigenous Canadians was such a departure from the status quo that it was burned into the minds of Canadians hopeful for meaningful change.
Many governments struggle to deliver on key promises in their early days, even when those commitments are deeply important to its leader and rank-and-file. But nearly halfway into the government’s mandate, there should be an urgent push within the government to understand why the inquiry has stalled and what is required to renew its momentum.
To borrow a metaphor from the long road trips of summer, the current struggles of the inquiry is a flashing check engine light for the Trudeau government. The responsible driver knows to get the light checked and address the problem. Other drivers simply ignore the light and hope for the best. This issue is simply too important to carry on with business as usual.
The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and their families deserve answers and healing. This inquiry must move forward and it must be done right.
Sara Monture is Ensight’s Indigenous Practice Lead. A results-oriented strategist, Sara is a skilled organizer, researcher, writer and facilitator from Six Nations of The Grand River Territory.