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McMaster panel expresses concern over potential MMIWG inquiry extension

Family members of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and Coalition co-chairs greet each other prior to a press conference calling for a re-organization of the National Inquiry into MMIWG in Winnipeg, Wednesday, July 12, 2017.
Family members of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and Coalition co-chairs greet each other prior to a press conference calling for a re-organization of the National Inquiry into MMIWG in Winnipeg, Wednesday, July 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

A panel of four Indigenous women weighed in on the future of the inquiry into Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls during a policy symposium at McMaster University on Friday.

Although each relayed a belief in the power of sharing the stories of loved ones lost, they were unanimous in saying that the inquiry should not be given more time.

READ MORE: Inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women seeks 2 more years

The federal government is currently considering extending the MMIWG inquiry, that seeks to examine the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women, by two years.

If approved by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, the deadline would be extended to Dec. 31, 2020.

It’s a process that has been plagued by setbacks due in part to multiple resignations.

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READ MORE: 2nd executive director of MMIWG inquiry resigns

Beverly Jacobs, a University of Windsor law professor, who practises part-time from her home community of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, says there is also a lack of trust.

“That was part of our frustrations, they went to urban centres, what about First Nations communities?”

Jacobs says that eventually, Six Nations families didn’t want the inquiry to come to the community.

“We have to respect the families who have participated and have to respect their stories and the things that they’re sharing,” she said, but cautioned she’s unsure how it will translate into recommendations.

READ MORE: Indigenous mother to get child back after she was taken away by province

Jacobs says her personal experiences with violence started during childhood.

Much like the other three women on the panel, she has lost women in her family as well as friends.

She has advocated for Indigenous women, families and communities, noting it’s part of her own healing.

A healing, she says, that is best delivered at the community level, which is why she is recommending that any funding is redirected from extending the inquiry to programs that support Indigenous initiatives.

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“We have rights of passage ceremonies to teach our young people how to be good people and have good relationships, revitalizing all of that to me is what is going to shift having healthy relationships,” said Jacobs.

She added the Ganohkwasra family support services centre on Six Nations has been carrying out much of this work already.

The only way Jacobs says she could support the inquiry going forward is if it was completely dismantled.

“If there is a reset button, it would be a whole reset button — new commissioners, rebuilding the mandate.”

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