MMIW inquiry must have Inuit-run component, Pauktuutit says
National Inuit women’s org releases report on MMIW pre-consultation, plus anti-violence and healing strategy
About Inuit, by Inuit, for Inuit.
That’s the message from Pauktuutit, the national Inuit women’s organization.
The organization is calling for Inuit-controlled leadership during the upcoming national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“There is a concern that because Inuit are a small population, their issues and concerns will be overshadowed in a pan-Aboriginal process,” the group said in a report released May 3 on its pre-inquiry consultations for MMIW.
The report, titled “Nipimit Nanisiniq” or “Finding Voice” in English, is based on testimony gathered from Inuit victims of violence during consultations hosted by Pauktuutit in February.
“For too long, Inuit women have been excluded from important national discussions and decisions that have a direct impact on our families and communities. We welcomed and appreciated this opportunity to spend time together and talk about an issue that affects all of us on a daily basis,” Pauktuutit President, Rebecca Kudloo, said in a news release May 3.
Based on its pre-inquiry findings, the report recommends the appointment of at least one, but preferably two, Inuit commissioners, who would combine a legal background and a deep cultural understanding of Inuit life.
The goal: to guarantee that specific issues affecting Inuit women are addressed in the national inquiry, involving “Inuit participants and supporting cultural practices and ceremonies,” Pauktuutit said.
It is also asking for a “parallel and equal process within the overall inquiry with appropriate financial and human resources,” to address Inuit-specific issues and circumstances.
The Inuit organization hopes that the national inquiry would unfold with leaders from all three Aboriginal groups in Canada: Inuit, Métis and First Nations.
Developing an “institutional relationship” with the RCMP, the Government of Nunavut and other Inuit organizations during the inquiry will be vital to addressing systemic problems that contribute to the issue, Pauktuutit said.
To that end, the organization is recommending the investigation of social and economic conditions that lead to family and partner abuse.
“Violence against Inuit women and girls has far-reaching implications for victims, their families and communities and is contributing to multi-generational and inter-generational trauma,” the report states.
Many remote Inuit communities do not have the emergency services in place to remove women from their abusers, who continually “live in fear” with no means of escape, the report said.
“Women need to be taken seriously when they are fearful for their safety,” said the report, which recommends emergency shelters and safe homes in every Inuit community.
The report demands “full investigations of all questionable disappearances and deaths, especially when families suspect murder,” as well as reopening cases that may have been wrongfully declared accidents or suicides.
Many of the families consulted in the pre-inquiry session questioned the effectiveness of the prison system and the risk posed by offenders upon release to communities and victims.
“Often they are returned to the larger regional centres because the small communities don’t have the services in place to support their parole conditions. Without adequate housing and services they can be a risk to the community,” the report reads.
The ideas expressed by Pauktuutit are in line with past comments from the Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister, Carolyn Bennett who, earlier this year, hosted pre-consultations across Canada with Aboriginal organizations and affected family members.
The minister told Iqaluit media in January that the federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women will only succeed if it’s informed by local knowledge.
“The North is unique,” said Bennett said at that meeting Jan. 29, adding that “the solutions are going to be different here.”
Pauktuutit also released a strategic plan for Inuit violence and healing, culled from research the group has been gathering since 1984.
That report is also calling for investment in shelters and services for Inuit women in the North and across Canada, as well as counseling services and prevention efforts.
For more information on the pre-inquiry report and the accompanying strategic plan, visit the Pauktuutit website here.