By Anthony Savonarota
Shortly after being declared victorious in the 2015 federal election, Prime Minister Trudeau wasted little time in publicizing the steps he and his administration would administer in order to uphold one of his core campaign promises, specifically to launch an inquiry into the staggeringly high amount of missing and murdered indigenous women from numerous Aboriginal communities across the nation.
When Trudeau and his party finalized plans for the M.M.I.W. commission in August last year, including announcing that the budget administered would be fifty three million dollars, he received praise from both sides of the political spectrum, and the general public in addition to the Indigenous victims’ families. Many believed this decades long issue has long been underreported by the press and largely ignored by the government, and is even one of the largest barriers impeding a stronger relationship between Canadian citizens and the First Nations Peoples of Canada as a result.
Unfortunately, with the commission now more than a few months into its national inquiry, many issues regarding M.M.I.W., have surfaced. Many families feel that there is an abundant lack of communication between them and the commissioners appointed. A large segment of the Canadian populace are worrying that their taxpayer dollars are not funding a governmental effort to ‘right’ one of the biggest ‘wrongs’ in our country’s history, but instead funding a misguided, bureaucratic catastrophe. Finally, some are even wondering if the Liberal government sanctioned the commission to mainly strengthen public relations instead of strengthening relations with Aboriginals, and that the potential for M.M.I.W. will eventually be as M.I.A. as the unfortunate victims the inquiry was sanctioned to investigate after in the first place.
More than thirty advocates, Indigenous leaders, and family members recently issued an open letter to the chief commissioner, a fellow native herself, Marion Buller.
The group writes that while it is aware the commission has a difficult challenge, immediate action must be taken to prevent damage and shift the current approach of the inquiry. The continued delays experienced by families wanting to participate in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has created a lack of trust and is re-traumatizing those families, according to Beverly Jacobs, a past president of the Native Women's Association of Canada.
In terms of the commission's finances, according to the CBC the commission had spent about ten percent of its fifty three million budget, culminating in a spending of about five million so far.
Yet they also pointed out, surprisingly, that three and a half million of that five million spent went to administration and travel fees/expenses. Even more unfortunately, it did not go to where many feel is is the most needed, basic internal communication. There appears to be a severe lack of human beings that answer phones and emails, which as many of the families and several Canadian journalists have made apparent whilst trying to call themselves, seemingly leads to just a line of voice mail machines, not that they expect their phone call to be returned anytime soon with the way things are going.
In interviews with CTV News, both lead commissioner Marion Buller and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, respectively, defended the recent actions (or to many lack of it) from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry.
Buller said “It takes time to do it right and we intend to do it right,” she said at press meeting last week. That’s the only way that’s fair to honour the spirits of the lost women and girls and honour the spirits of the survivors.” Trudeau, also supportive, told reporters that “We trust the commissioners to do the work that we laid out that they need to do.”