Manitoba chief says MMIW inquiry terms of reference falls short on policing, child welfare

Dennis Ward and Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
A chief in Manitoba says she’s seen the terms of reference of the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry and believes they fall short when it comes to policing and child welfare.

MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said one of things she’d heard from almost every single family member is the issue of policing and the lack of respect families say they’ve received.

“There’s nothing specific in the terms of reference (TOR) that deal with the role of police agencies across this country on this issue,” said North Wilson.

North Wilson said the TOR don’t go far enough “in scope to look at the effects indifferent or ineffective policing has had on the families of (MMIW).”

North Wilson said the TOR also falls short on Indigenous children in care of provinces, which is nearly 90 per cent in Manitoba, or about 9,000.

North Wilson was part of a group of chiefs’ organizations that met with province of Manitoba province Tuesday.

Chiefs in Manitoba met with Manitoba’s Indigenous Affairs and Justice ministers Tuesday to find out why Manitoba is holding up the inquiry.

The new provincial government has been blamed for not wanting to sign off on the terms of reference and wanting a commissioner from Manitoba to be named to the inquiry.

“It shouldn’t be a deal breaker,” said North Wilson. “We shouldn’t hold up the process if we don’t have a Manitoban appointed as one of the five commissioners.”

Families were told there was supposed to be an announcement on July 6 until Manitoba said they didn’t agree to TOR.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett told APTN last week that before the inquiry can be announced all provinces and territories have to sign off on the TOR and commissioners, which was believed to be five. It’s not known if that number has changed since Manitoba’s demands. It is also unknown if Manitoba is the only province holding up the process.

But for families the question remains, if the provinces were not on board, why did INAC promise families the announcement was good to go for July 6?

“We should be informed. (Bennett) says ‘families first’ but we are not first,” said Laurie Odjick, whose daughter Maisy, 16, went vanished in 2008 with her friend Shannon Alexander, 17, from Kitigan Zibi First Nation about an hour north of Ottawa. “We need to be involved. No one is helping us. These politicians need to be held to their promises.”

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