Minister of Indigenous Affairs says work of inquiry will continue despite commissioners


first_imgAPTN National NewsIndigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says the current Inquiry has the tools and the people in place to fulfill the mandate of the embattled National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.“First I would like to thank Ms. Poitras for her work,” said Bennett. “I am sure she will continue to be a defender of indigenous issues and continue to look into the tragedy of missing Indigenous women and girls. She has made great sacrifices and contributions and we thank her for that.”Bennett, fresh off a meeting with the Inquiry’s commissioners, faced the media shortly after news broke that Commissioner Marilyn Poitras issued her letter of resignation.In her letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Poitras said she could not work within the structure of the inquiry.“It is clear to me that I am unable to perform my duties as a Commissioner with the process designed in its current structure,” wrote Poitras. “I believe the Terms of Reference could be used to find solutions to do this work and I wish you the best in moving that agenda forward.”Read Marilyn Poitras resignation letter here: Marilyn PoitrasBennett met with the Inquiry July 10 to discuss the concerns appearing in public about the communications issues, and the commission’s plan to execute its mandate.“We had a very productive meeting and I can assure the families that the commissioners are continuing to work diligently and they are trying to find solutions to end violence against Indigenous women and girls,” said Bennett.Marilyn PoitrasSince being announced in the fall of 2016, the Inquiry has suffered through several resignations and firings.February 4, Michael Hutchinson, communications director is let goJune 2, Sue Montgomery, senior communications offiicer resigns.June 15, Tanya Kappo, manager of communications resigns.  June 15, Chantale Courcy, director of operations resigns.June 30, Michèle Moreau, inquiry executive director resigns. Her last day is July 21.But none as big as Poitras, a commissioner walking away from the Inquiry because of the way the process is designed.The first response came from the Assembly of First Nations.“We’re very concerned about this resignation because the work of the National Inquiry is too important and we want to see it succeed for the families,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a statement. “The AFN has made many offers to help the Inquiry connect with all those affected by this tragedy because a ‘families first’ approach is essential to the Inquiry’s success. As part of that effort, we’ve invited the Commissioners to speak at our upcoming AFN Annual General Assembly to share information, and we anticipate a positive response.”The Native Women’s Association of Canada is calling on the commission to restructure.“This process has lost its focus on those who are impacted by the loss of loved ones and on honouring the lives of Indigenous women,” said NWAC Interim President Francyne D. Joe in a statement.  “The departure of a Commissioner, immediately following the resignation of the Executive Director, is a clear indication that there are unresolved structural issues occurring at the highest levels. It’s time to give families the barrier-free process they deserve.”But Bennett isn’t going to intervene in the work of the commissioners.“The commission is totally independent and it is their decision to make in terms of finding processes that will help them achieve their mandate.”“I was impressed by the work plan that they have, the research plan … they really do have the vision, the values, the tools and the plan to to get this work done. There is no question, that we all agree, communication has been an issue. And that they have got to do a better job at communicating their vision, their plan, values and the way that they’re going to get this work done.Successful commissions bring Canadians with them as they go – and this has not been done to date.”Bennett said she will not appoint a new commissioner unless she is directed to do so by the inquiry, and if Cabinet approves it.Poitras’ last day is July 15.last_img

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