The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which began its journey in August 2016, is now near its completion. The mandate of the inquiry was to hear the voices of survivors and families in order to learn the truth and find solutions to end the alarming rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls. It was also to understand why Indigenous women and girls go missing or murdered in such disproportionate numbers.

To date, the Commissioners have met with nearly 1,500 family members of victims and survivors. One hundred and one experts were consulted at 15 community hearings across Canada. In addition, 604 people shared their experiences through artistic expression.

In a December 2018 interview, Chief Commissioner Marion Buller shared that the National Inquiry has uncovered more than 100 systemic causes for the disproportionate number of deaths of Indigenous women and girls. Some of these systemic causes include already known factors such as lack of education, lack of employment, and poverty. A final report will narrow the focus to 10 areas that point to the disproportional level of systemic violence. The final report will be complete in April 2019.

The National Indigenous Council (formerly Aboriginal Ministries Council) of the United Church of Canada remains committed to supporting survivors and families. We attended several community hearings to witness the strengths and challenges experienced by all as well as to share these sacred stories amongst our communities of faith. (See Confronting Injustice at the Quebec Inquiry, Uplifting the Families at the Edmonton Inquiry, and Sharing Tears at the Thunder Bay Inquiry.)

We grow more vigilant and determined to honour the strong voices we heard and we continue to walk with our relatives to end violence against Indigenous women and girls. All women, girls, and Two Spirited people have the right to live free from violence. 

Non-Indigenous members of the United Church have also raised their voices and shown up to support survivors and their families. We invite all United Church communities of faith to continue to raise awareness of violence against Indigenous women and girls, especially the factors that create such high levels of violence. Let us lift up Indigenous women and girls; let us seek justice together.

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Background

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 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.

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 NWAC's Pre-Inquiry Consultation Report, available under Downloads, below.

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 More Information:

Honarine ScottHealing Programs Coordinator416-231-7680 ext. 4485
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4485
hscott [at] united-church.ca

Sara StrattonReconciliation and Indigenous Justice Animator1-800-268-3781 ext. 2742SStratton [at] united-church.ca