Premier Dwight Ball says he would like to see an inquiry into Innu children in foster care underway “within the next few months.”
The long-delayed inquiry was first announced in July 2017 after a number of deaths in the Innu community of Natuashish.
Ball says the province and Innu Nation are working on the inquiry's terms of reference, and on finding a commissioner to head the inquiry.
“Now it comes down to who leads the inquiry,” said Ball.
“The main objective for all of us is making sure we have the right people leading this inquiry and the people we would jointly choose both from the province and the Innu Nation. We’re very concerned about Innu children in care. We always have been. We’re still making progress and changes when need be on what we can do even now, not waiting for the recommendations. It’s still important for us to get this proper inquiry done.”
The initial plan was to have the terms of reference for the inquiry done by the end of July 2017, with work happening by October 2017.
"We’re very concerned about Innu children in care. We always have been." — Premier Dwight Ball
Ball says the two-year delay came when the federal government indicated it would not be involved in the inquiry. The provincial government and Innu Nation had stated from the beginning that the federal government would need to be involved. In April 2018 the federal government said it would be a part of the Inquiry.
“I could see this happening within the next few months. That’s what I would want to see. I’m working toward that, as I have been for quite some time,” said Ball.
“I didn’t want those delays in the beginning. We’re hopeful that we can get through these terms of reference, get those done, get this started.”
The terms of reference for the inquiry have not yet been finalized. Ball says once that’s ready, it’s down to logistics. Some of the equipment used in the Muskrat Falls Inquiry will likely be used for the inquiry, for example, though Ball stressed that the Muskrat Falls Inquiry has not factored into any of the delays seen to date.
Ball says the government is working on ensuring translators are in place to allow people to testify in their own language.
“We want to make sure that people that present to the inquiry, they get the opportunity to actually do it at whatever level it is they’re most comfortable with,” he said.
As for whether a live translation of the inquiry will happen, Ball says it’s up to the Innu Nation how much will occur.