Statement by Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould: (Text in native language.) Good afternoon. Bonjour, tout le monde. First of all, I wanted to start by thanking Elder Commanda for her welcome and acknowledge the territory of the Algonquin people. And it's my pleasure to be joined here with Minister Hajdu and Minister Bennett. And I wanted to acknowledge the traditional ceremony that was undertaken by the elders yesterday with my colleagues.

We are here together today to talk about our commitment to reconciliation and a new way forward for indigenous peoples in this country. We share the conviction that true reconciliation cannot be achieved without addressing the gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

A first step on the path to reconciliation will be addressing the heartbreaking reality that girls born in our indigenous communities are three times more likely to experience violent crime. The extent of violence against indigenous women and girls is not an indigenous problem. It's not simply a woman's issue. It is a national tragedy that requires an urgent and deliberate national response.

Over and over for decades, indigenous women and girls have gone missing, have been murdered and have disappeared and for far too long, these women, their families, their children have been left to grieve without answers. For so many of those left behind, they carry this pain and loss with them every day. Every one of these women and girls was an individual with life and value, full of promise. She deserves better. She was someone's daughter, mother, niece, aunt, grandmother or friend. They deserve better.

We have heard from indigenous peoples in communities across the country. We have worked hard to honour the spirit of their loved ones, but whose early calls for action have been met by silence. They deserve better.

We have heard from indigenous leaders and listened closely to the calls of action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report demanding that we collectively do better as Canadians. And as ministers, we have reaffirmed our commitment to working collaboratively on this extremely important issue and to proceeding and proceeding in as much open way as possible. We are committed to doing better.

Doing better requires openness and the ability to listen. We have heard this loudly and clearly, and we have heard that this cannot just be another report.

This inquiry must find a balance between learning from our past, honouring those who have lost, reviewing our present and making concrete actionable recommendations for our future, so that we can bring an end to this national tragedy. It must be inclusive, open enough to ensure we help create the space for families, loved ones and others to share their experiences and to have their ideas and solutions be heard. It must create the space for healing among families, among communities most affected and among all Canadians who have been diminished by this national tragedy. It must recognize that there can be no single solution, that there is shared responsibility in strengthening and supporting indigenous communities, so that they can design their own solutions. It must draw on and learn from the diverse cultural practices and knowledge of indigenous peoples, families, loved ones and communities across the country. It must look at all the underlying factors that have contributed to the situation, including the legacy of historic wrongs, poverty, marginalisation and inequality and help to light a pathway to move forward that is part of true reconciliation.

So with all of these values in mind, today I am pleased to announce that the Government of Canada is launching its first phase of the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. As a first step, we will meet with the families in the National Capital Region with the goal of hearing their views on the design of the inquiry and what it needs to achieve. And over the next two months, we will hear from more families, other indigenous peoples, national Aboriginal organizations and a range of frontline services, workers and others. And beginning this week, we will seek their input on the design of the inquiry and on what needs to be achieved. We will listen clearly to their voices.

No inquiry, as we know, can undo what happened nor can it restore what we have lost, but it can help us find ways forward because we know as a country we can and must do better, and we will do so in partnership.

I will now turn to my colleague, Minister Hajdu, to provide more details and comments. (Text in native language.)

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