Davis demands pre-inquiry meeting in N.L.

Says inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls must reach communities affected to be effective

Published on January 22, 2016
Paul Davis.
Telegram file photo

Progressive Conservative Leader Paul Davis is joining the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre in expressing disappointment with the fact that there was no meeting in this province leading up to the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The inquiry design meetings began Jan. 6 in Thunder Bay, Ont., and continue until Feb. 15 in Ottawa. Meetings are scheduled in all provinces and territories except Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

According to a news release from the Office of the Official Opposition, Davis wrote a letter to federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett demanding that meetings be added in this province.

“A primary reason for holding this inquiry is to shine a spotlight on the tragedies, the people and the communities that have been for too long ignored so that justice can be served,” he wrote.

“It is inexcusable that the schedule of meetings ignores our province, where so many of these tragedies have occurred. Indeed, the oversight is all the more difficult to understand, in light of the fact that the late Loretta Saunders, whose tragic death was the galvanizing event that triggered this inquiry, was an Indigenous woman who called Newfoundland and Labrador home. A significant proportion of Newfoundland and Labrador’s people identify as Indigenous, and they have an interest in being part of the process of designing and scoping this inquiry.

“Many of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples live in rural communities, and many of those communities in our province are particularly remote. To be effective, the inquiry must go to the places where people live. The people of these rural communities will surely tell you this, and explain why, if they are given the opportunity to be heard in their communities during the inquiry’s development phase.”

Natasha McDonald, executive director of the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, said in a news release that while disappointed in the lack of a meeting in this province, there was representation from Newfoundland and Labrador at sessions in Halifax.

“We are also pleased to know that outreach will take place in the coming weeks to ensure that families who could not attend can provide their input,” she said in the release.

A government spokeswoman  said Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould are hearing from people and organizations who are directly affected by the tragedy in 18 meetings coast to coast.

“We want to ensure as many people can participate as possible, that’s why travel costs for survivors, families and loved ones are covered to attend the closest session,” the spokeswoman said. “For those unable to travel, they are able to participate through online submissions. There are now over 8,000 online submissions through the website.”

For info on how to participate: visit www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1448638589462/1448638612053.

lpower@thetelegram.com