#MMIWG So you want a national inquiry?


So you want a national inquiry? Perhaps you signed a petition? Maybe you tweeted something relating to #MMIWG (missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls) recently and are now all worked about the government not doing anything? Surprise! Welcome to Canada.

But what are you exactly asking for when you say that you want a national inquiry for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls?

Some people say this is a call to action. Actually, no, it isn’t a call to action. But thank you National Chief for that gesture of civility—you don’t have to apologize. We (well some of us) already realize the constrained structures that you are working within and how those structures limit what you can actually do or say, publicly or privately. Oh that darn locus of power, eh?

Some people say it is what we need RIGHT now. No, we don’t.

Let’s have a quick little discussion about what a national inquiry actually entails (and maybe we will throw in some already conducted inquiries, how they didn’t help, and what they couldn’t actually say given their tightly imbricated colonial mandates).

Many people have asked me why I am saying no to a national inquiry. Simply put, it maintains the status quo and besides the obvious, we already know all the reasons why this is occurring, and what about all of the other reports/research previously done? Plus, inquiries only allow certain voices to be heard and certain bodies to be seen. Not everyone is considered equal in the process.

The national inquiry is set up formally and its jurisdiction is established by legislation (we already know how legislation plays out in favour of Indigenous peeps—NOT); its set duration established in terms of reference (ToR). This means that the inquiry “can be short, medium or long” (oh the excitement!). The inquiry can be headed by one or more Commissioners (with legal and supporting staff hired). It is often open to public including documents, process, hearings, and final report may be posted on the internet (kind of like this 150+ page document here). Some organizations like to say that the inquiry’s relationship to the government is independent but this is contradictory in itself because it is established by the government–because it really isn’t independent. The costs can be high (for all the bullshit reasons that we need an inquiry in the first place). The structure is dependent on the ToR, the process is dependent on the ToR, and the activities include “generally intended to advise or investigate” and “may call subject matter experts, witnesses, etc.” This is where only certain voices and bodies matter to the inquiry. Just think about who is going to be called to be a witness and who isn’t? What differential power relations are at play here? Where will the hearings be held? How will the witnesses be able to get there? As for the big kicker, future actions? These are at the discretion of the governments that established the inquiry (which won’t be done by Harper I will tell you that much and that includes if the government who established the inquiry remains in power after the inquiry is over). Additionally, participation is only granted by Commissioner at hearings and maybe, just maybe written submissions may be accepted (probably in English, which ultimately views Indigenous languages as inferior—you know the usual). Oh, but don’t forget, all of this is non-binding (translation: the government can do what it has done before in other inquiries, ignore it).1

But wait, didn’t I say there was previous inquiries done? Yeah, like during the inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—the same women that the police didn’t care about and turned a blind eye when they were reported missing by their families/friends. What was the outcome of that report? Well, Oppal basically wrote that serial killer Robert Pickton targeted Indigenous women given their status in present-day Canadian society, less than human.2 What was the outcome of that inquiry? Exactly. Nothing. Do we really need another inquiry to tell us why Indigenous women and girls are being targeted by serial killers/murderers because they are considered less than human and how the rest of Canada doesn’t care? No. We can have inquiry, after inquiry and they can all say the same thing: Canadian society doesn’t care about Indigenous peoples, specifically Indigenous women and girls. They can also give us all the same recommendations but you know what? Those recommendations are non-binding. Let’s get all up in arms about a process that is created by a colonial government and that doesn’t hold a colonial government accountable for its actions in remaining complicit in the violence against Indigenous women.

Other inquiries that were conducted on Indigenous peoples, including an Indigenous child that died in state care and an Indigenous man that died while waiting for urgent medical attention INSIDE a hospital: Brian Sinclair3 and Phoenix Sinclair4. The outcome of those inquiries didn’t mention anything about the racism or colonialism that is interlaced within ALL of these cases. So yes, let’s have a national inquiry that will ignore the racism and colonialism that cause so many Indigenous women and girls to go missing or murdered! And for what, another inquiry to have the government apologize again? How many apologies is that now from political leaders and other government officials?

How about instead, we support the community-based organizations that are working directly with the families and friends of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls? You can start by donating to Families of Sisters in Spirit.


2.http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/wally-oppal/ OR http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/public_inquiries/docs/Forsaken-ES.pdf




  1. We need inquiries all the time when a persons is missing it needs to go national and until that person has been found and until the person who has abducted or abused and murdered gets put away!!

    1. Yes. So the government can ignore their non-binding recommendations again? Like in this letter here: “Not only did you fail to provide a commitment to this urgent recommendation, there was no commitment made to any of the other 4 priority recommendations that were put to you. These include “the implementation of mental health and addiction programs for and by aboriginal women and youth; mandatory police sensitivity training; justice to victims’ families through a compensation fund and the appointment of a champion to implement the recommendations.”

      Read more: OPEN LETTER: Meeting with the Missing and Murdered Women Coalition
      Follow us: @UBCIC on Twitter | UBCIC on Facebook” http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/News_Releases/UBCICNews02261402.html#axzz2uavGUjn7

      Yes. That’s EXACTLY what we need.

    2. And we all know when the police get involved in the lives of Indigenous women, that it assumes they will provide protection. Sadly, they are often arrested/criminalized themselves. Also, we know from previous inquiries the police are indifferent to the state of Indigenous women–police don’t protect us. Yes, we need an inquiry to tell us that (again!).

  2. ?úl-nú-msh-chálap for speaking truth, we already all know that the reason so many women and children are being murdered is because it is being allowed and if we look into it encouraged by the current systems that place young people at risk through the foster care and education systems in that if young people have to go to communities where they do not have family and friends looking out for them they are more vulnerable. The fact that Canada claims to be a great multicultural pro human rights nation that still spins racism through their media is glaringly apparent.

    I do not support an enquiry, it would accomplish nothing as you point out, if one was held it would harm many of us who have missing friends and relatives, we don’t need that. We don’t need colonial oppression, genocide and further violence, we don’t need Canada. We should not allow them to continue getting away with their crimes, we need this to stop, we need truth and awareness to be shared, not more cover ups and debate about something so horrible. There are a great many predatory people on the streets and in the communities, no enquiry will change that. We need to raise this awareness and work harder ourselves to provide people with the information they need to keep themselves and their children safe. We need to put these systems in place ourselves, that is what we should be doing, no one should be out alone and vulnerable, we have to start taking care of each other again, not looking to a colonial plutocracy to do it for us, the only thing any enquiry will gain us if further knowledge that providing protection for people is something that clearly that will never happen.

  3. Thanks for your post. I like the fresh perspective on the call for an inquiry. We need systemic action that isn’t top down, not another government report that goes nowhere and is informed by hyper-colonial victim-blaming perspectives. Couldn’t agree on your call to support Families of Sisters in Spirit!

  4. The argument I am hearing most from people is “an inquiry raises awareness and if just one person is made aware of what is happening, then that is all that matters.” I kind of want to shake them and say, “You keep using that word, ‘inquiry’. I do not think it means what you think it means.” They argue that the petition they’ve signed has this included – “I also ask that you involve those most affected by this tragic issue – Aboriginal women – in the design, decision-making, process and implementation of this inquiry”, and therefore this is a good thing. I am having a hard time believing that a bunch of old, rich, white men are at all interested in any of these demands and given that they are part of the problem, how keen will they be to admit, not just that they are part of the problem, but they need to be fixed. I think what they are looking for is a societal shift that makes us all look at each other as equals and not as people who are “less than” or “better than”, and they think that a federally funded inquiry is going to be just the thing to make us all join hands and sing folk songs and love everyone. What do you suggest we do in the meantime, instead of sitting idle and waiting on PM Harper, who has never said a word he has ever really meant?

    1. If you read my post, I provide a link where you can donate to a volunteer run organization that works directly with the families and friends of MMIWG. Help support community based actions that are already in place–like FSIS.

  5. I agree with you. I think we know what is happening to Women here. An inquiry does not really lead to answer in many cases and even if they do, they are quietly ignored. Need an example RCAP for one. There is a host of things that could be done and that would take a mindset change by the public on Women. It would also need a mindset change on poverty, stolen identity (colonialism impact), and the marginalized sector of society. The problems are immense. Quick fix or band-aid solutions are fine for flash or media spotlight. But concrete change is required. Required in how we regard women. Even with our own people. You know how “valuable” women are? They are the ones that keep our bloodlines going. They are the ones that grow our community. Yet when we have photo-ops or leaders talking, it is the men that are standing there? Women’s roles have to be acknowledged. That means Teachings have to become more than words, Teachings have to become action. We are marginalizing our own Women, how in the heck do we expect the main stream society to act? Even our women fall into that practice. I saw a few women ran for Assembly of First Nation leadership. One of those women was blasted for being pretty? “Barbie Doll getting after the men”. Jesus H Christ, how sad and pitiful is that? Right now we can have a say in long term change. The first nation act, right? We should have been controlling our own destiny long ago. Having more language classes. Have Teachings, our own Teachings as compulsory part of school classes. That is a start. What do you expect when messages that You are no good are part of the everyday message from society. Indian people have to know, have to believe, have to live that they are the First People’s in this land. The Monarchs of this land (if you will). We are not beggars, not living on tax payer’s cash, or were devoid of rules, laws, Teachings prior to contact. That is where we start. To believe in our people. To bring action to the Teachings and not consistently put ourselves down. Society has done a good job of that already, we don’t need to help them.

  6. After listening to some of the mothers of the missing murder women, I think the inquiry could be something. It depends on the scope. If it could prevent more loss than maybe it should be done. The Mom on APTN sure made me think. The arrogance of the Canadian government is so disheartening and maddening. The actions are deplorable. The ironic title of the report mocking the Aboriginal community. So maybe I think that the scope of an inquiry may look at things that AJI or RCAP didn’t.

    1. I definitely agree an inquiry or inquest of some sort *might* bring something to the table. But it would need to be centred on the lives of the MMIW. It would also have to be guided by the family/friends of MMIW. Thank you for your comment and your concern for the issues.

      In solidarity ❤

  7. I’m coming from a place of ignorance about many of these issues, though as a settler Canadian who migrated here from a colonized land due to some of the same issues of displacement I’d like to think I have some understanding of the structures of power at work…with that said, I guess I’m wondering if there would be any harm if an inquiry were to be undertaken? What I’m getting out of this article is that it probably wouldn’t help a whole lot, but it could maybe help improve things a little for some people and I guess it doesn’t seem like it could make things any worse?

    If that’s the case, then that doesn’t delegitimize any of the totally valid criticisms made above, of course, but I guess I’m wondering if there’s Indigenous folks actively organizing AGAINST an inquiry. I totally acknowledge that I may have misunderstood the post, clarification would be welcome 🙂

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