Canada’s National Inquiry Of Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

mocassin tops (vamps) honouring 2000 missing or murdered indigenous women. The exhibition was called Walking With Our Sisters
Walking With Our Sisters Shingwauk Auditorium 2014 photo by Archkris is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
The floor in this picture is covered with decorated vamps (moccasin tops) to remember 2,000 indigenous women who have been murdered or are missing. This exhibit was one of many calls to action for an national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

The reports linked at the end of this post document the work of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. They are based on the accounts of survivors and family members of people who have been murdered or are missing. It also includes testimony from police forces, academics, reporters and politicians.

The reports generate a comprehensive picture of the circumstances that surround these individual occurrences. The reports document patterns and failures in systems that continue to persist. The recommendations cover a wide range of issues, along with steps to implement the changes that are needed.

Even though it was not a primary focus of the inquiry, the lack of affordable housing is a recurring issue throughout the reports. Testimony illustrates how housing contributed to the individual accounts of indigenous1 women, girls and gender diverse, non-binary people2 who have been murdered or are missing. This includes increased exposure to violence and abuse and increased personal risk, while at the same time removing community supports that help to avoid these dangers. The individual accounts underscore how a permanent supply of safe, secure and affordable housing could have made a big difference.

Why this report is important

To begin with, the fact that this is the work of a formal national inquiry signals the seriousness of the issue. The mandate of this inquiry included all levels of government. Its creation alone represents a significant achievement. This could be important to anyone who is working to bring an end to a longstanding and systemic issue.

The inquiry structure provided funding and set a timeline to look into the issue in depth. People were invited to engage in a legal process that was set up to expose failures in legal systems. They were reporting issues that had caused them, and continue to cause them, pain, grief and anger. The inquiry’s commissioners took specific steps to adapt its work to the mandate, within the limitations of the formal structure. This is documented in the report and a useful guide to future inquiries.

The report identifies how policies, programs and funding contribute to the conditions surrounding the individual tragedies that led to the Inquiry in the first place. Housing is one of those conditions. Housing should have provided safety and security, but it didn’t. The report provides evidence that housing is important, even though it is not a central focus in the final recommendations.

To assist readers, the executive summary is linked to sections of the full report. This is helpful for understanding issues in more depth.

The report draws attention to the relationships between people who were the subjects of the inquiry and the people who were there to help them, including family members, police, politicians, social workers etc. By doing this, it is able to draw attention to tragedy, but also to people and actions that were helpful. Those experiences form the basis of the recommendations. It is a useful model for other inquiries.

For more about this Inquiry, see National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Reclaiming Power And Place: The Final Report Of The National Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women And Girls

Footnotes

  1. this includes First Nation, Métis and inuit people
  2. The term used in the report 2SLGBTQQIA, refers to people who identify as two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual