Northerners from across Canada attend Iqaluit MMIW consultation
“Solutions are going to be different here”
Canada’s investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women will only succeed if it’s tailored by local knowledge from communities around the country, said the minister in charge of the file Jan. 29 in Iqaluit.
“A pan-Canadian or pan-aboriginal approach is not going to work,” said Carolyn Bennett, the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada minister, at a midday news conference held at Iqaluit’s Frobisher Inn.
“The North is unique,” she added, and “the solutions are going to be different here.”
“As we go coast to coast to coast we’re learning that the issues or causes are sometimes unique… there’s many differences.”
Bennett was in Iqaluit to interview family members of murdered women and other stakeholders ahead of the federal government’s inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women,
It’s the only stop planned for Nunavut during a countrywide, pre-inquiry consultation tour, which is expected to guide the inquiry.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. vice president James Eetoolook sat alongside Bennett at the news conference.
“We [share] feelings with other Aboriginals in Canada, not only Aboriginal people that lost loved ones to violence,” said Eetoolook. “I think [it] hurts everybody. As a human being it hurts, regardless where they’re from in the world… We need to see some healing done in the future.”
Roughly 50 people from Nunavut, as well as others from across the territories, northern Quebec, northern British Columbia, northern New Brunswick and Ottawa participated in the Iqaluit consultation, which was closed to media.
“I think we learned a lot,” Bennett said about the day’s discussion.
“The future of community was the message I took from today. People want their communities healthy and it is about putting in place all of the measures.”
Those participating in the Iqaluit meetings arrived in the city over the past several days, attending orientation programs before the official meeting on Jan. 29.
“We learned very quickly after the first consultation in Ottawa that dropping people into this circle was almost unfair,” Bennett said on the importance of easing everyone into the discussion.
More than a dozen counsellors were made available for participants in the Iqaluit consultations.
The importance of sensitivity was paramount, Bennett stressed.
That’s because this was the first opportunity for many Nunavummiut to openly talk together about their experiences, she said.
“I think here, more than other places [outside Nunavut], people feel very grateful for this first opportunity to tell their stories and share their pain and grief,” Bennett told media.
After the pre-consultations conclude mid-February, Bennett expects the inquiry to get underway in the coming months.
“I hope that we will be able to have the terms of reference and the mandate and the commissioners chosen before the summer,” she said.
A 2014 RCMP report documented nearly 1,200 cases of murdered or missing Indigenous women or girls between 1980 and 2012, but it does not specify how many were Inuit.
“That’s what the purpose of the inquiry is, is what concrete measures do we need to put in place that can stop this tragedy with this disproportionate number of Indigenous women or girls that have died or go missing,” Bennett said.