(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – November 9, 2015) A Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding a press conference this morning to advise the public that British Columbia has failed to make significant progress on many of the recommendations from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (MWCI) and continues to ignore international recommendations from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Given their experience with the MWCI, the Coalition is making preliminary recommendations to the newly elected Trudeau Government for the National Inquiry which Prime Minister Trudeau promised would start immediately.
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For decades, Indigenous women and supporting organizations called for an inquiry into the disappearances of the many marginalized women from BC. Unfortunately, the MWCI led by Wally Oppal in 2012 was a deeply and systemically flawed and frustrating process that repeated the same discrimination and exclusion which we hoped it was going to uncover.
Of the 56 MWCI recommendations aimed at BC, many are unimplemented or “in progress,” and there is no ongoing accountability from the Province on work that remains to be done. To the contrary, the Province publicly said in 2014 that they would no longer be providing any updates on the recommendations, and BC Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton advised the Coalition on May 4, 2015, that “no further action is being contemplated.” Minister Anton continues to ignore our requests for full implementation of both MWCI and IACHR recommendations, and for a genuine accountability process to oversee and evaluate change and progress.
One of the critical and outstanding recommendations from the MWCI, the Highway of Tears Symposium, and the IACHR is to create accessible transportation along the Highway of Tears (Highway 16) in Northern BC. The Coalition is absolutely appalled that the Privacy Commissioner of BC recently confirmed that the BC Government deleted emails from family and communities about the Highway of Tears instead of responding appropriately to a freedom of information request, and instead of responding to the repeated and important recommendations to address this issue.
We request that the Province review Highway of Tears transportation options with affected communities and jointly create a fully funded plan that will be announced prior to the Gathering for Family Members of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls planned for March 2016 in Prince George. We strongly emphasize the need to address the systemic issues of poverty, racism, and the inter-generational impacts of Residential Schools, leading to the alarmingly high rate of murdered and disappeared women along the Highway of Tears. We also ask the Province to provide ongoing funding for the Highway of Tears Initiative.
Importantly, the Coalition is drawing on the respective and collective experience of its member organizations and individuals to recommend that the National Inquiry promised by the newly elected Trudeau government begin by establishing a pre-inquiry consultation process. Such a process should be inclusive of Indigenous women and communities and related organizations, and should establish the mandate and parameters of the inquiry, criteria for appointments of Commissioners and staff, processes for participation, initial areas of research, and resource requirements and commitments. It will be critical to review different models of inquiries. Further, the National Inquiry must consult thoroughly at every stage with Indigenous women and communities and related organizations, a recommendation made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its January 2015 report after reviewing the MWCI.
We are completely resolute that the National Inquiry cannot in any way repeat the mistakes of the BC Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Importantly, any recommendations coming out of a National Inquiry must be accompanied by a fully funded implementation plan, which was absent from both the MWCI and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. We are calling on the Trudeau Government to fulfil its commitment to a National Inquiry by establishing a genuine and transparent pre-inquiry consultation so that the National Inquiry truly results in improving the safety of Indigenous women and girls, and achieves justice for those who have been murdered or disappeared.
The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls initially came together in response to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia overseen by Commissioner Wally Oppal. Unfortunately the groups who formed the Coalition were shut out of the inquiry; however, the Coalition continues to meet regularly to pursue justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and has grown in number and strength.
1. Summary of MWCI Recommendations and Implementation, compiled by the Coalition (Nov 5, 2015)
2. Coalition correspondence to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Wilson-Raybould, Minister Bennett, and Minister Hajdu regarding recommendations for National Inquiry (Nov 9, 2015)