Canada prepares for long-awaited inquiry into disappearance of indigenous women

A vigil for Claudette Osborne-Tyo, missing since 2008. (Facebook)

Canada’s new Liberal government is preparing to launch a national inquiry into the disappearance of nearly 1,200 First Nations women. The investigation is slated to begin this summer, and according to Canada’s new federal indigenous affairs minister, it will be radically different than its predecessors. Carolyn Bennett told The Guardian that victim’s families will play an important part in the inquiry, which may also incorporate First Nations ceremony and culture.

This approach, Bennet said, differs from previous efforts to investigate violence against aboriginal women. “I heard from enough families that if it’s a very court-like procedure, a very judicial atmosphere, it may not work for them,” she said. “Some say specifically they don’t want it to look like inquiries of the past.”

A staggering total of 1,181 indigenous women and girls have been murdered or have disappeared over the past three decades. In June, the Royal Canadian Mountain Police released a report saying that First Nations women are in fact four times more likely to be murdered or go missing than other Canadian women. While comprised of a Conservative majority, the Canadian federal government faced criticism for failing to seriously consider previous investigations into this systemic problem. Justin Trudeau, who became the new Prime Minister of Canada last month, has allocated $40 million for the upcoming inquiry.

Claudette Osborne-Tyo, missing since 2008. (Facebook)

Claudette Osborne-Tyo, missing since 2008. (Facebook)

Bernadette Smith, whose sister Claudette Osborne-Tyo has been missing since 2008, told The Guardian that recommendations from previous inquiries — like improvements to First Nations education systems, and rehabilitation programs for violent offenders among the aboriginal population — have yet to be fully realized. Still, she remains cautiously optimistic about the future inquiry. “I think it will shed light on the fact our people are looked at as less than [non-indigenous] Canadians,” she said.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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