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Inquiry could come to Yellowknife
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett makes pledge during missing and murdered indigenous women pre-inquiry discussions

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, January 11, 2016

There is a very good chance a full federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls will make a stop in Yellowknife later this year.

NNSL photo/graphic

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, right, makes a point during a news conference in Yellowknife on Jan. 8. Bennett and her parliamentary secretary Yvonne Jones, l;eft, were in Yellowknife for discussions on what the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous females should look like. - Walter Strong/NNSL photo

That is according to Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, who was in the city on Friday. Bennett and her parliamentary secretary Labrador MP Yvonne Jones were at in Yellowknife for private pre-inquiry discussions Jan. 8. They listened to families of missing and murdered indigenous females and indigenous organizations to get their input of what they think a federal inquiry should look like.

At this point, Bennett said she expects the inquiry to be a roving one, making stops across the country.

"I cannot imagine (the inquiry) sitting in one place - in Ottawa - no. We will make sure they have the budget to move and to listen to people where they are," Bennett said.

This was the second pre-inquiry meeting after one in Thunder Bay on Jan 6. Bennett will be in Whitehorse next week and Iqaluit later this winter for similar meetings.

"'(This has) been a long time coming,' is what the elder said this morning as she opened our meeting," said Bennett.

"We want to get it right so we have an intensive agenda of listening to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls coast to coast to coast."

Bennett said what she heard in Yellowknife is that there is a tremendous need to make sure there is strong representation and involvement from indigenous people in the inquiry.

"There (needs) to be indigenous perspective throughout the leadership of the inquiry, the staffing, the processes in terms of ceremony of the inquiry," she said.

"What we've heard so far is that they think it is going to be very important that the commission understands the regional differences - that there be a recognition of all languages, the need for translation. Some people felt that the recommendations (should) also be regional."

Bennett said she was aware the meeting in Yellowknife was called on short notice but added those who were not able to attend can still have their voices heard through an online survey posted on the indigenous affairs website.

Policing and the way indigenous people are treated by law enforcement will be part an important part of the inquiry, she said. Her comments come in the wake of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's claim late last year that there are racists on his force.

"I think (indigenous people) were grateful of Mr. Paulson's admission but a few bad apples approach is not gong to be sufficient for the families I am hearing from," Bennett said, adding that she thinks people want sexism and racism addressed in recruitment and training among police.

Although indigenous women make up only four per cent of Canada's female population, 16 per cent of all females murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012 were indigenous.

A national missing and murdered indigenous women and girls crisis line has been set up to help provide support.

Bennett said she expects the inquiry to be up and running by early summer.

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