BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its final hearing in Winnipeg on October 18, after the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, granted the inquiry a six month extension in June. This is despite the fact that the commissioners of the inquiry had requested a two-year extension from their original mandate. The final report is now due on April 30, 2019.
October 18 was also the third annual National Moose Hide Campaign Gathering and Day of Fasting in Ottawa. I am proud to support the Moose Hide Campaign initiative, a grassroots movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys who are standing up against violence towards women and children and it has been my honour to wear the moose hide pin in commitment to honour, respect, and protect women and children.
I know many of you have lost loved ones or have family members or friends that have lost loved ones. It is my hope that the outcome of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will bring answers that are needed so it never happens again.
At the end of the day, this inquiry needs to give us a path forward to help prevent these tragedies and improve the day-to-day lives of Indigenous women and girls.
As the Inquiry’s Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said in a recent Canadian Press article regarding the Liberal government’s response to their interim report: “It’s the action that counts, not the thought. The action so far is not speaking too loudly.”
To me, what is most important is that Indigenous women and girls are safe and that they feel safe, whether it is within their communities or travelling throughout the region.
It is clear that right now this isn’t necessarily the case and I truly hope that when the final report is tabled next year it will provide us with tangible results and a clear direction forward.
However after hearing comments from Chief Commissioner Buller about the Liberal government’s response to their interim report, I fear that this won’t be the case.
The lack of transparency surrounding how the inquiry’s original budget of $53 million was spent is also concerning and we still haven’t been told how much the six month extension will cost. This is funding that could have gone towards shelters, program and services, which is why it’s imperative that real action is taken and that this not just become another report with recommendations and resolutions that never get used.
I have worked hard to have good relationships and work with Bands within our region and to hear any concerns and advice that they may have. I look forward to continuing to meet with our local Indigenous leaders and build on these relationships.
As a father and husband, I can’t imagine what the families of these victims have gone through, and continue to go through every day. It is those families that I will think of when the final report comes next April.