As of July 2017, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is in serious turmoil, with the resignation of a number of staff and one of the commissioners, who has expressed her concern about the inquiry’s structure and ability to fulfill its mandate. Families, Indigenous women’s organizations, and communities share those concerns. The United Church has always advocated for a culturally appropriate, trauma-informed inquiry that addresses the structural roots of violence against Indigenous women and girls. We continue to pray that such an inquiry emerges. Members of Indigenous communities of faith from across Canada will meet in late July for the National Aboriginal Spiritual Gathering, where they will learn more about and discuss the Inquiry. We invite all United Church communities of faith to join us in a hopeful prayer for justice for Indigenous women, girls, and their families and communities.
On August 3, 2016, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada announced the establishment of a five-person commission to conduct a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to begin work September 1, 2016. For information about its powers, mandate, approach, and commissioners, see Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. The Moderator expressed the church’s prayerful support for the commission’s difficult work ahead.
The United Church, at its 2015 General Council, adopted a resolution to support the call for an inquiry, and called on United Churches across the country to remember murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in prayer and for members of the United Church to participate in vigils held by Sisters in Spirit on October 4.
- Talk with your member of Parliament and local Indigenous organizations about inviting the National Inquiry to your area.
- Write to the commission asking them to ensure that investigation of law enforcement occurs during the inquiry. Contact information will be posted by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada as soon as it is available.
- Participate in a vigil
- Find a Sisters in Spirit vigil in your area on October 4 and show your support. Check out locations of existing vigils, or register your own.
- Another appropriate date to hold a vigil would be December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada.
- Spread the word
Learn More about the Issues
- Review the community database documenting Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, It Starts with Us.
- Use resources from NWAC: Community Resource Guide: What Can I Do to Help the Families of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls? is particularly useful for advocates, people assisting families, and educators.
- Access resources from Amnesty International: No More Stolen Sisters.
- View the United Church’s MMIWG webinar from May 2015.
Books, Films, and Video Clips
- Canada’s Missing Aboriginal Women, The Agenda with Steve Paikin
- How do we stop aboriginal women from disappearing? Beverley Jacobs at TEDxCalgary
- View Vice episodes on YouTube: Trawling Winnipeg’s Rivers for the Bodies of Unsolved Murder Cases; Searchers: Highway of Tears; A Family's Desperate Search for a Missing Woman Police Can't Find
- Birdie by Tracey Lindberg: On the CBC Indigenous Book Club list, this book about a group of Indigenous women is not dedicated to MMIW but rather speaks to many of the underlying issues facing Indigenous women.
- Kwe: Standing with Our Sisters edited by Joseph Boyden: Dozens of writers and artists add their voice to a call for action
- Finding Dawn (NFB film): Illustrates the deep historical, social, and economic factors that contribute to the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women in this country.
- Missing (2014): A documentary by Animikii Films in association with Civilian Media Productions
- Highway of Tears: Available on Netflix
The United Church works to live out the promise to walk together in the Spirit of Christ. The Healing Fund helps address harms from the legacy of the residential schools. The Justice and Reconciliation Fund supports the gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to mend broken relationships. The church has also formed groups who are intentionally Living into Right Relations by engaging communities to walk side by side, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, and respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
In early 2004, the United and Anglican Churches joined with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) to launch the Sisters in Spirit campaign, raising concerns about elevated levels of violence against Aboriginal women. In 2005, the federal government established a $10 million fund to help Sisters in Spirit do research and education, and develop a database of missing and murdered Indigenous women and children. In 2010, the government transferred funding for the database to the RCMP, whose missing persons database, however, does not have a specific focus on Indigenous women.
There were many calls for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). In May 2013, the United Church's General Secretary wrote the prime minister informing him of the United Church's support of the call by NWAC and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) for a national inquiry, and urging him to act quickly to institute one. Church members were encouraged to write their representatives.
In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued 94 Calls to Actionincluding a call for a public inquiry regarding MMIWG. As a party to the Settlement Agreement with residential schools, the United Church seeks to live out these calls to action.
The newly elected Liberal government in October 2015 had campaigned on a promise to hold a public inquiry regarding MMIWG. In early December 2015, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu revealed the details of a pre-inquiry consultation. The Government of Canada conducted an online survey and 18 inquiry design meetings with stakeholders across Canada from December 2015 to February 2016. To learn what they heard, read the meeting and summary reports on the Government of Canada site.
On August 3, 2016, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada announced the establishment of a five-person commission to conduct a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to begin work September 1, 2016.
The commission is directed to
- make recommendations on concrete actions to remove systemic causes of violence and increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls in Canada
- make recommendations on ways to honour and commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
- provide its recommendations to the Government of Canada through an interim report in fall 2017 and a final report by the end of 2018
For More Information: