Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
Christmas greetings from The United Church of Canada. At Christmas, we acknowledge the coming of a new hope for justice and peace in the world. It is in this spirit that I write to thank you for moving so quickly to implement a national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, an action that we and many others asked you to undertake as one of your first acts of government.
As you know, the families of these women, their communities, and all Canadians who seek to build a reconciled relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada have long sought such an inquiry. Now that it is in process, I wish to assure you of The United Church of Canada’s desire to work collaboratively with you to make this a meaningful step forward in transforming the relationship among the peoples of this land.
We appreciate your setting the inquiry so clearly within the framework of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we are particularly grateful for your commitment to living out the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the first step in reconciliation. We believe that the Declaration, built upon the principles of self-determination, the right to culture, and the right to participate in decision-making, has clear implications for the inquiry’s mandate.
We therefore ask you and the ministers of Indigenous Affairs, Justice, and the Status of Women to continue to pay special attention to the voices of the families of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in establishing the parameters of and leadership for the inquiry. We ask that Indigenous worldviews and cultural understandings be foundational to the inquiry, and that it be rooted a fundamental respect for the spiritual care of those involved, from the victims to those who seek justice on their behalf.
Christmas marks the beginning of a time of transformation. And so we seek from an inquiry not just a process of telling the truth and establishing facts. We also seek a commitment to name the historical and contemporary structures that have created and perpetuate this particular cycle of violence. We seek a commitment to action in addressing the root causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, ensuring that the story of those murdered and missing finally comes to resolution.
The United Church of Canada is encouraged by your statement to your ministers that “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.” Your call for a “total renewal” of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples is one that resonates with our own journey as a church, and we are ready to work with your government, First Nations, the Métis Nation, Inuit peoples, and other organizations to craft and implement a framework of reconciliation that will serve to transform us as a society. The inquiry you have mandated is, we hope, the first of many steps in that process.
May you and your family experience the blessings of this season.
The Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell
The United Church of Canada
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development
The Honourable Judy Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of the Status of Women