Canada launches inquiry into missing, murdered indigenous women

Wed Aug 3, 2016 4:09pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada launched a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women on Wednesday, a long-awaited look into the root causes of decades of violence that have led to more than a thousand deaths and attracted international criticism.

The inquiry, which will be overseen by five commissioners, will look at the systemic issues that lead to violence against indigenous women and girls, the Canadian government said. It will run from September to the end of 2018 and deliver a report with recommendations.

"The national inquiry is an important step in our journey of reconciliation," said Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett.

A United Nations watchdog last year urged Canada to launch an inquiry. While aboriginal people account for only about 4 percent of Canada's population, they on average suffer from higher rates of crime, poverty and addiction.

The inquiry was announced last year by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, fulfilling a campaign pledge from the October federal election. Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper had resisted demands for an inquiry.

"This is huge. This is a historic moment that we are now beginning to start the work," said Dawn Lavell-Harvard, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, which campaigned for an inquiry for 11 years.

Nonetheless, there were some concerns, including that there does not appear to be an opportunity for families to pursue or reopen cases through the justice system, said Lavell-Harvard.

"We're committed to working on the details to make sure that this inquiry works for the families and that we see justice," she said.   Continued...

A photograph of Terrie Ann Dauphinais is seen as participants hug after singing a song during the "24 Hour Sacred Gathering of Drums" protest calling for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 12, 2014. Dauphinais was found murdered in her Calgary home on April 29, 2002 and the case remains unsolved. REUTERS/Chris Wattie