Fact sheet on inquiries

Federal inquiries

Alternative approaches

How inquiries work

Cost and timelines

Selected elements from some relevant earlier inquiries

Canadian federal inquiries
Name Purpose Scope Commissioners / Leads Structure and innovative elements Report and recommendations
The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry (The Berger Inquiry)

Inquire into and report on terms and conditions that should be imposed on any right of way granted across Crown lands considering the social, environmental, and economic impact of a proposed gas pipeline that would run through the Yukon and the Mackenzie River Valley of the Northwest Territories Consider proposals to meet the environmental and social concerns The Honourable Justice Thomas R. Berger Structured under the federal Inquiries Act

Preliminary hearings were held in four locations to hear submissions on the scope and procedures.

Beyond the formal hearings, the Commission also held hearings in all 35 communities along the Mackenzie River Valley, to hear evidence from residents in their own languages in their home communities, as well as in 10 cities across Canada.

Twelve groups became full participants in the inquiry, attending all meetings and testifying before the commission, as well as Special Counsel and Commission Counsel.
Northern Frontier Northern Homeland - Recommended a comprehensive approach that would balance environmental, social and development issues and the settlement of Indigenous claims
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

To study the evolution of the relationship between Aboriginal peoples, the Government of Canada and Canadian society as a whole Four theme areas: governance; land and economy; social and cultural issues; and the North Co-Chairs
The Honourable René Dussault, j.c.a.
Georges Erasmus

Paul L.A.H. Chartrand
J. Peter Meekison
Viola Robinson
Mary Sillett
The Honourable Bertha Wilson
Structured under the federal Inquiries Act

The terms of reference (the scope of the commission) were developed following consultations conducted by former Chief Justice Brian Dickson with national and regional Aboriginal groups, Aboriginal leaders in various fields, federal and provincial politicians, and a variety of other experts.

178 days of Public hearings, heard briefs from over 2,000 people

Travel to 96 communities

Consultations were held on the development of an integrated research plan with four themes, and two co-directors were appointed to commission more than 350 research studies.

Reviewed past inquiries and reports, constitutional documents, treaties, statues, case law
Five volumes – Looking Forward Looking Back, Restructuring the Relationship, Gathering Strength, Perspectives and Realities, and Renewal: A Twenty-year Commitment - set out a 20-year agenda for change to restructure the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, with 440 recommendations touching on a broad range of issues, from legislation to the replacement of INAC, to education, health, housing and child welfare
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation

As set out in Schedule N to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair

Dr. Marie Wilson

Chief Wilton Littlechild
Structured outside the federal Inquiries Act, as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement with seven specified goals, building on prior and existing studies and repots, as well as specific powers, procedures, and responsibilities, including to establish a research centre and to preserve its archives

The agreement specified, amongst other considerations, that the commission would not hold formal hearings, nor act as a public inquiry, nor conduct a formal legal process, but that participation would be voluntary only. The commission had the discretion to hold in camera sessions, could not name names without permission, and was directed to hold national events and community events for specified purposes including both healing and public education, and any cultural ceremonies considered appropriate.

The agreement also set up an Indian Residential School Survivor Committee of 10 representatives from Aboriginal organizations and survivor groups, the majority of whom had to be former residential school students. An Inuit Sub-Commission was also set up.
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future - Interim Reports released 2012, and June 2015

94 Calls for Action on a broad range of issues - child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous People, Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation, National Council for Reconciliation, church apologies, museums and archives, missing children and burial information, commemoration, media, sports, business and newcomers to Canada
Canadian provincial inquiries
Name Purpose Scope Commissioners / Leads Structure and innovative elements Report and recommendations
British Columbia Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

To inquire into and make findings of fact on police investigations between 1997 and 2002 of missing women from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, and the decision of the Criminal Justice Branch in January 1998 to stay proceedings against Robert Pickton. Also to recommend necessary changes to investigations of missing women and multiple homicides, including where they involve coordination of more than one investigating organization Review of 67 cases of women missing from the Downtown Eastside, and broader review of recommended changes, including the Highway of Tears The Honourable Wally Oppal, Q.C. Structured under the British Columbia Public Inquiry Act
10 groups were granted standing as full participants, as well as two individuals, and 8 groups as limited participants, of which 13 were given recommendations for funding (some later withdrew because of lack of funding).

Later re-designated as a Joint Study and Hearing Commission. Six Public Policy Forums were added (held in Vancouver, with additional Northern community forums in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Gitanyow, Moricetown, Smithers, and Hazelton), as a component of the Study Commission, which was of equal importance to the hearings (held in Vancouver) relating to the portion of the mandate on recommendations for change, involving five main initiatives: consultations, research, written submissions, workshops and policy forums.

Set up a vulnerable witness protection protocol

Involved Elders in ceremonies at public meetings
Forsaken – four volumes with 63 recommendations on restorative measures, equality-promoting measures, measures to enhance the safety of vulnerable urban women, measures to prevent violence against Aboriginal and rural women, improved missing person policies and practices, enhanced police investigations, regional police force, effective multi-jurisdictional policing, increase police accountability to communities, and measures to assure the women's legacy
Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry

2015 -2018
Part of the Class Action Litigation Settlement Agreement as part of a comprehensive approach to the history and legacy of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children (NSHCC) and the abuse that occurred within it Specific mandate, objectives and goals are set out in many parts to review the past to use it to ensure a better future Twelve commissioners will be appointed (the Members of the Council of Parties from the litigation, including former residents, the NSHCC board, African Nova Scotian community members, representatives from government, etc. Structured under the Nova Scotia Public Inquiries Act

Restorative inquiry in a model similar to a truth and reconciliation process

The inquiry is structured as an action-oriented process, with a reflection and action task group of government and community partners that will meet throughout the process to review what has been learned and begin implementing next steps.
Inquiry is in progress
The Ontario Ipperwash Inquiry

Inquire and report on events surrounding the death of Dudley George during a protest by First Nations representatives at Ipperwash Provincial Park in 1995, and make recommendations that would avoid violence in similar circumstances in future The inquiry also sought to further public education and understanding of the issues around the death, and to contribute to the healing of those affected. The Honourable Justice Sidney B. Linden Structured under the Ontario Public Inquiries Act

The inquiry had two parts that ran concurrently to address the two-part mandate (based on the Ontario Walkerton Inquiry):
  • Part 1: The hearings on the events surrounding the death of Dudley George
  • Part 2: Policy and Rrsearch meetings on the avoidance of violence in future similar circumstances
Seventeen groups were granted standing in Part 1, of which 15 were also granted standing in Part 2, as well as another 13 groups.

The inquiry set up a Research Advisory Committee, commissioned 21 papers, and issued three discussion papers. The Inquiry also sponsored or co-sponsored symposia, roundtables and other public events, to encourage public engagement in the policy debate.

Educating the commissioner and participants - The inquiry held an Indigenous Knowledge Forum for all participants and counsel.

Furthering public education - The inquiry created a website, posted research papers, submissions and summaries, as well as links to teaching resources. The inquiry also made a number of presentations to students and teachers.
Four volumes, with 100 recommendations on a broad range of issues including policing, land and treaty claims, apologies, crisis counselling, and coordination
Inquiries in other countries
Name Purpose Scope Commissioners / Leads Structure and innovative elements Report and recommendations
Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody

To inquire into the deaths since 1 January 1980 of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people while in police custody, in prison or in any other place of detention, and any subsequent action taken or that ought to have been taken (99 deaths were included) The commission also looked at underlying issues, associated with those deaths, including social, cultural and legal factors. National Commissioner - Elliott Johnston, Q.C.

With four regional commissioners to look at the deaths in specified regions, and report to the national commissioner (one did not review individuals deaths but underlying issues in Western Australia)
The commissioners were appointed under the federal Royal Commissions Act 1902. The regional commissioners and the national commissioner were also appointed under state laws.

Set up on a regional basis with 6 offices and 3 sub-offices, inviting public submissions

Set up a Criminology Research unit, with Aboriginal Issues units set up in each state and territory that were staffed by Aboriginal people with the task of ascertaining what Aboriginal people, Aboriginal organisations and communities believed were the underlying issues and solutions

Pre-hearing conferences were used to isolate matters of dispute to reduce hearing time.

Discussion papers were issued to focus public meetings, and the commission released two versions of their paper on underlying issues for comment.
339 recommendations on a wide variety of areas including data collection, research, youth justice, substance abuse, housing, self-determination, diversion, policing, corrections, health, education, economic development, land claims and reconciliation
Australian National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families

To trace past laws, practices and policies resulting in the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, the effects, the adequacy of a need for change in current laws, practices and policies related to those affected, and respecting the care and placement of children taking into account the principle of self-determination The commission was asked to consult widely among the Australian community, in particular with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with relevant non-governmental organizations, and with relevant federal, state and territory authorities, and if appropriate to consider and report on relevant laws, practices and policies of any other country. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission President, Sir Ronald Wilson, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Dodson, took primary responsibility.

They were assisted by other HROES cocmmissioners and the Queensland Discrimination Commissioner, with an Indigenous woman appointed as Co-Commissioner in each region.
Structured under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act, 1986

Indigenous witnesses were provided with personal and psychological supports.

A representative Indigenous Advisory Council was appointed, with members from all major regions.

Informational materials were also produced in explanatory videos to increase access.

Law firms, Aboriginal legal services and other Indigenous organizations recorded testimonies and forwarded them to the inquiry to extend the reach.
Bringing Them Home – 54 recommendations for law reform in areas of child welfare, adoption, youth justice, family law, self-determination, and services such as mental health, parenting, counselling, family reunification, reparation, and many others
South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

To promote national unity and
reconciliation in a spirit of understanding which transcends the conflicts and
divisions of the past by:
  • establishing causes, nature and extent of the gross violations of human rights which were committed during the period from March 1960 to 1994
  • facilitating the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure
  • establishing and making known the fate or whereabouts of victims
  • recommending reparation measures
  • recommending measures to prevent the future violations of human rights
Included human rights violations by both the state and the liberation movements, and special hearings focused on specific sectors, institutions, and individuals Chair - Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Anglican)

Fourteen other commissioners
Structured under the South African Interim Constitution of 1993, later the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995

Two phases – first looking at individual cases of human rights violations, and then at motives and perspectives that gave rise to those violations

Created a witness protection program

Given the power to grant amnesty to individual perpetrators

Held institutional and special hearings to hear direct contributions by NGOs

Established a research department that began by generating regional chronologies of cases, used to develop 15 research themes

Separate statement-taking phase to facilitate hearings from large numbers of affected individuals in their home communities.
Five volumes with recommendations for reform of South Africa's society and political system

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