Missing, murdered women inquiry urges review of justice system policies

The report is being released on Monday, but several media outlets have received leaked copies

A paper bag used to collect the tears of those testifying, to then be burned in a sacred fire, is seen at the final day of hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Richmond, B.C., on Sunday April 8, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The final report of a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is calling for broad and widespread changes to the way the justice system handles cases, including standardized response times, better communication with family members and strict protocols to ensure investigations are thorough and complete.

The report is scheduled for release Monday, but a leaked copy was obtained by The Canadian Press, as well as other media outlets. It’s the result of a years-long inquiry into the systemic causes of violence against thousands of Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and includes — like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools before it — a lengthy list of recommendations to address them.

Canadian society has shown an “appalling apathy” towards addressing the issue, say the inquiry’s commissioners, who reach the explosive conclusion ”that this amounts to genocide.”

The report urges all actors in the justice system, including police services, to build respectful working relationships with Indigenous Peoples by “knowing, understanding, and respecting the people they are serving.”

Actions should include reviewing and revising all policies, practices, and procedures to ensure service delivery that is culturally appropriate and reflects no bias or racism toward Indigenous Peoples, including victims and survivors of violence, says the report.

During the course of the inquiry, it notes, policing representatives acknowledged the “historic and ongoing harms” that continue to affect First Nations, Metis and Inuit families, as well as the need to make changes to how non-Indigenous and Indigenous police work to protect safety.

The report also concludes that colonial violence, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people has become embedded into everyday life, resulting in many Indigenous people becoming normalized to violence.

READ MORE: Missing and murdered Indigenous women’s inquiry wages court fight for RCMP files

The office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett declined to comment on the contents of the report until after Monday’s ceremony.

“The commission will publicly present its findings and recommendations on June 3rd, and we very much look forward to that,” Bennett’s office said in a statement. “Out of respect for the independent national inquiry and the families, we won’t comment on the details of the final report before then.”

Families, however, are finally getting the answers they have been looking for after decades of demanding a national inquiry, the statement noted.

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

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