The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has ‘turned a page’ following a rocky start, says its chief commissioner, and will be requesting an extension by Jan. 1, 2018 if it feels it is required.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, Marion Buller said determining how much additional time and money might be needed is “a calculation that has to be done very carefully.”
“We want to hear from all the people who want to talk to us,” Buller said, explaining that this will include not only families of the missing and murdered, but also experts, governments, police forces, coronary services and even hospitals.
“Already, we have over 900 people registered to talk to us, so we have a lot of work to do,” she said.
The current end date for the inquiry is Nov. 1, 2018. The Liberal government has earmarked $53.8 million over two years for the work, which is aimed at examining the patterns and factors underlying violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
If an extension and a larger budget are required, Buller told Kapelos, the inquiry will make the request to Ottawa before the end of this calendar year.
Asked if the government is likely to approve those requests, Buller replied: “If I knew the answer to that right now, I’d probably also know the winning numbers for the lottery.”
The chief commissioner also addressed one of the main recommendations made by the inquiry in its interim report released last week: the creation of a specialized police task force that would address persistent questions for families and survivors.
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Issues surrounding how cases linked to missing and murdered Indigenous women have been handled by police were raised during the pre-inquiry process, Buller recalled, and the same concerns are being heard over and over again during the main inquiry hearings.
“I was expecting to hear that, but not to the extent and not with the conviction that we’re hearing it,” she said.
The Liberals have not yet said if they’ll heed the inquiry’s suggestion. But Buller said that she remains confident the final recommendations, whenever they come, will be implemented by the government.
The work being done by the commissioners and their staff came under intense scrutiny in recent months after several high-profile departures, a lack of communication with the public and persistent administrative delays. Some of those issues have been blamed on the federal government’s complex policies linked to procurement, information technology, and human resources.
“I think that we’ve turned the page,” Buller said. “We’ve had a very difficult year, I don’t deny that, but we’ve learned, we’re moving on and we’re going at great pace.”