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September 20, 2016

The Case Against the Inquiry

Reuel S. Amdur

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There are some serious reasons as to why the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is a bad idea. Let's begin with two. In the first place, many more Indigenous men and boys are victims. While the situation for women and girls is not completely the same, neither is it totally different from that of males. An inquiry focused on just females seems wrong-headed. The British Columbia Oppal inquiry was focused on women in response to the Robert Pickton murders, but a broader nation-wide study is another matter.

More basically, government has at times set up inquiries in order to put off having to take action, to create reports that can go into the library and gather dust.  In this case, we have the group affected clamoring for a study, essentially giving the government some two and a half years to do nothing.  “We’re waiting for the report.”

And what will a report give us that we don’t already know?  Here is the inquiry’s mandate:

“The commission is directed to examine and report on the systemic causes behind the violence that Indigenous women and girls experience and their greater vulnerability to that violence by looking for patterns and underlying factors that explain why higher levels of violence occur.

“The underlying factors could be historical, social, economic, institutional or cultural. . . .

“The commission is also directed to examine and report on the impacts of policies and practices of government institutions.  These include institutions such as policing, child welfare, coroners and other government policies/practices or social/economic conditions.”

We already know the essential answers to this mandate.  Aboriginal families continue to bear the scars of the residential school’s experience.  Parents have not had an adequate experience of being parented.  Abject Third World poverty pervades many Aboriginal communities.  Reserves are often lacking in health care resources, good schools, clean drinking water, adequate housing, economic opportunity, and well-funded child welfare services.  The government is putting off more adequate funding of child welfare services till a later date.  We do not need an inquiry to tell us this again.

The Oppal inquiry looked long and hard at policing.  Among other things he found, again things we already knew for the most part, that police were seriously divided jurisdictionally with poor communications among forces, that they placed diminished attention to crimes against Aboriginal women and crimes against prostitutes.  We do not need an inquiry to tell us this again.

One gem from his inquiry related to the isolation of some reserves.  People—and here he spoke of women but the same is true of men—wanting to travel to population centres lack public transportation and are reliant on hitch-hiking, making them vulnerable.  Oppal told us.  We do not need another inquiry to tell us the same thing.

And so on.

Aboriginal organizations would be well advised not to wait two and a half years for action on what we already know and on what the inquiry is unlikely to tell us anything significant that we don’t know.

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