Inquiry design meeting #12: February 4-5, 2016, Toronto, Ontario

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its 12th engagement meeting in Toronto, on February 4-5, 2016. This pre-Inquiry meeting included survivors, families and loved ones. Their experiences, views and contributions will contribute to the design of the inquiry.

A summary of the meeting is provided below. The summary is not a complete account of the discussions. Instead, it highlights the key themes that emerged from this engagement meeting. Read a copy of the discussion guide used at this meeting.

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The meeting was held over two days. The first day included registration and orientation sessions. On the second day, participants took part in a sharing circle with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The families, survivors and loved ones provided recommendations for the design of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Elders prepared the meeting space on the first day through prayers, smudging, a symbolic lighting of the Qulliq, and a water ceremony. The Sacred Drum was played to provide strength and comfort to the survivors, families and loved ones who shared their personal experiences of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

The second day was dedicated to how the inquiry should be designed. The day opened and closed with traditional ceremony, which included the Sacred Drum. A women's hand drum group called SpiritWind also performed. Those in attendance acknowledged and honoured the women and girls who were murdered and who are still missing. Prayers were also offered for those most affected by these tragedies.

Who attended

Approximately 60 family members, survivors and loved ones participated from various Indigenous communities. To ensure the well-being of participants, health support workers(including Indigenous elders) from Health Canada were available at the meetings and over-night to provide additional cultural and emotional support.

Listening to the recommendations and experiences were the following two ministers:

Representatives of front-line organizations and senior government officials also attended.

Leadership and participation

Two questions were asked about who should lead and who should take part in the inquiry. The views on leadership included the need to have:

Participants stressed the importance of involving survivors, families and loved ones in the inquiry, and to do so by visiting their communities. To make their involvement possible, participants said the inquiry must:

Priorities and key issues

Participants identified the issues the Inquiry must address if it is to produce recommendations for specific actions. These issues include:

Participants want the inquiry's final report to include recommendations for specific actions including:

In general, the participants agreed that solving the problem of violence will be a long-term process and will require building trust among Indigenous communities and the police and justice systems. As time passes, attention should continue to focus on the needs and concerns of survivors, families and loved ones.

Support and cultural practices

Participants agreed on the need to follow local cultural protocols and include ceremonies in the inquiry process. They stressed that this is critical to healing. Participants further agreed on the need for ceremonies to be incorporated into the process to honour the spirits of those who have passed away.

Recommendations about how to include cultural practices and ceremony include:

Additional comments

As well as discussing the questions listed in the discussion guide, participants were invited to share and other comments and views on the design of the Inquiry. Their suggestions included:

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