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Open Letter to the Inquiry Commissioners



 

Media Release, For Immediate Release

November 20, 2017

ONWA’s Analysis of the Interim Report; National Inquiry

The Ontario Native Women’s Association has been anxiously awaiting the release of the Interim report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

We recognize the enormity of the work contained within the mandate and we thank the Commissioners for the work they have completed.  We also want to be clear that this is not the Inquiry we asked for and it will likely not get the results we need, but it is the Inquiry we have.

First, what we liked about the Interim Report.

  • Building on what has come before:  The report provides a good summary of the latest statistics Canada information and the detailed analysis of past reports.
  • The focus on healing: We strongly agree that there needs to be a reinvestment in the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Even with these strengths the Inquiry continues to struggle to meet its mandate as is evident from the gaps in information and critical errors contained within this report.  From the beginning the Inquiry has suffered from confusion of purpose.  This is rooted in a deep compassion for the family members that the commissioners and the government have been working with.  We recognize that the Inquiry deeply connected with some families when the lead commissioner started talking about “our families.” Perhaps they did not recognize that by “owning” some families they would split families and communities, between the families connected with the Inquiry and government from other families, including provincial and national coalitions of families that have been asking for a restart to the Inquiry.

The report raised a number of concerns for us.

“One of the main concerns of the Interim report opens stating that the report cannot be reproduced without permission by the Government of Canada.   Contrast that to the Truth and Reconciliation Reports which says ”This report is in the public domain. Anyone may, without charge or request for permission, reproduce all or part of this report.”  The purpose of all of this work is to find answers and for us to collectively take responsibility for the change that will need to happen to end the violence against Indigenous women and girls. We cannot start too early to educate all of us.” Cora-Lee McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director

 

For more information, please contact:

Julia King, Executive Assistant

Tel: 807-577-1490 ยท  Email: onwa%23ca|jking

 



 

November 20, 2017

RE: The Ontario Native Women’s Association analysis of Interim Report, The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

The Ontario Native Women’s Association has been anxiously awaiting the release of the Interim report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

We recognize the enormity of the work contained within the mandate and we thank the Commissioners for the work they have completed.  We also want to be clear that this is not the Inquiry we asked for and it will likely not get the results we need, but it is the Inquiry we have.

First, what we liked about the Interim Report.

  • Building on what has come before: The report provides a good summary of the latest statistics Canada information and the detailed analysis of past reports.
  • The focus on healing: We strongly agree that there needs to be a reinvestment in the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Even with these strengths the Inquiry continues to struggle to meet its mandate as is evident from the gaps in information and critical errors contained within this report.  From the beginning the Inquiry has suffered from confusion of purpose.  This is rooted in a deep compassion for the family members that the commissioners and the government have been working with.  We recognize that the Inquiry deeply connected with some families when the lead commissioner started referring to them as “our families.” Perhaps what the Inquiry did not recognize was that by “owning” some families they would split families and communities, between the families connected with the Inquiry and government from other families, including provincial and national coalitions of families that have been asking for a restart to the Inquiry.

The report raised a number of concerns for us.

The Interim report opens stating that the report cannot be reproduced without permission by the Government of Canada.   Contrast that to the Truth and Reconciliation Reports which says ”This report is in the public domain. Anyone may, without charge or request for permission, reproduce all or part of this report.”  The purpose of all of this work is to find answers and for us to collectively take responsibility for the change that will need to happen to end the violence against Indigenous women and girls. We cannot start too early to educate all of us.

Our second concern is the issue with informed consent.  Informed consent is a critical foundation of all research with Indigenous people. The lack of informed consent was the basis of forced sterilization, residential schools and the removal of children through the 60’s scoop.  The UNDRIP Article 11 speaks to Indigenous peoples rights to their culture, traditions, customs and literature, as well as redress to intellectual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent. For a research project to meet ethical standards it must demonstrate that all participants are fully informed of the risks associated with their participation, the purpose of participation and how their information will be used. These signed consent forms must also offer that at any time people can withdraw their participation.

By copyrighting all traditional knowledge, stories and oral history they have received to date, as the transcribers of this information they have asserted their power and control over all this information.

Another principle of research is to “do no harm.” This is why we asked for a trauma informed approach. From a historical context, colonization has no ethical standards and asserts ownership and control over Indigenous people without any consideration of the impact and harm that would come from this asserted control.   We have to ask whose voice has merit in this research? The Inquiry has chosen to utilize reports relating to violence against Indigenous women and girls as secondary sources and not primary documents.

What we would like to see immediately is that the Inquiry redress informed consent, and remove the copyright of all reports.  The information they collect and report upon must be shared widely, to be consistent with the Inquiry’s work using education as a tool for ending violence. This limitation seems at odds with their position on finding, honouring and giving life to the truth. ONWA firmly stands with the families and communities who carry these stories. Their wisdom must guide all our work going forward, it cannot be extracted and published without their review and consent.

The Inquiry also needs to implement a full disclosure informed consent for all individuals participating within the Inquiry.

We support an extension of the Inquiry based on a reset model that is based on substantive reform of structure and practice and that honours all stories & knowledge shared to date, and transforms these stories into powerful recommendations. We ask that the compilation of recommended actions from previous work be expanded to include gender specific resources that currently exist in communities for Indigenous women, girls and 2 spirited individuals.

We also ask that the Inquiry provide recommendations for immediate actions around healing that go beyond the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and recognize and support Indigenous violence prevention programs, Indigenous women’s leadership and reconciliation with Indigenous women.

Finally, we want the Inquiry to succeed. As one of the organizations that have advocated for over 12 years for this Inquiry, we know the Inquiry mandate called for a systemic look at the issues. A systemic picture includes a diversity of voices often with different needs.  Those voices include: multiple family members (often with different needs); the murdered and missing who are not publicly missed by any family member, the community and social service organizations that have been helpers to the families and the community members and extended family members who have been impacted.  What was clear to us was that as Indigenous people, our healing is collective.

When we listened over the 12 years, families asked for help on their healing journey and not for a quasi-judicial process. The inquiry has chosen a legal path towards reconciliation around the issue of MMIWG.  We are dedicated to making Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirited people safe. We will work with what we get from the Inquiry but we recognize that ending violence against Indigenous women and girls will take each of us in Canadian society.  We were hoping for more guidance on that journey.

 

In the spirit of reconciliation,

Cora-Lee McGuire-Cyrette
Executive Director

 



 

Media Release, For Immediate Release

July 11, 2017

ONWA Sends Open Letter to the Inquiry Commissioners

The Ontario Native Women’s Association would like to publically express our withdrawal of support for the continuation of the Inquiry in its current format and approach. After monitoring the progress of the Inquiry to date, as well as listening to the Chief Commissioner, Marion Buller on July 6th, 2017, describe the progress of the Inquiry as “lightning speed” in spite of many delays over the past 10 months. President, Dawn Harvard stated “we no longer have faith that this Inquiry will meet its mandate and work responsibly with families and communities”.

We want to be clear. We want an Inquiry. We have been a part of the advocacy since 2005 that led to this Inquiry. We want the Inquiry to provide families with the opportunity to be able to share the stories of their loved ones. We want families to get the answers that they need and for their experience at the Inquiry to be part of a larger healing journey. We also want the Inquiry to honour the women and girls, to hear the lessons from their stories; and transform these lessons into powerful recommendations for governments, institutions and communities to take up.

Executive Director, Cora McGuire-Cyrette stated “This Inquiry needs to honour Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; we cannot continue to harm the most vulnerable population in our communities. When do Indigenous Women get to matter?” We want the Inquiry to assist families in their healing and to help Canada, Indigenous nations and communities to provide the guideposts to the changes we need so that we do not lose any more Indigenous women and girls to violence. We do not believe that the Inquiry in its current configuration can achieve these outcomes.

There are a number of concerns that ONWA is addressing:

  1. The Inquiry intention to restart hearings in the Fall of 2017 in Thunder Bay;
  2. The lack of commitment and willingness to reach out to families;
  3. The lack of culture and ceremony;
  4. The absence of strong Indigenous women’s leadership;
  5. The lack of communication;
  6. The lack of procedural and legal fairness in the process;
  7. The lack of a trauma informed approach;
  8. The legal focus of the Inquiry instead of looking at prevention.

As we have advocated for ten years for an Inquiry, this is not what we were advocating for. Family members’ having to contact the Inquiry instead of being respectfully contacted; Indigenous women’s organizations being left out of the process; and the lack of a trauma informed approach is unacceptable.

 

For more information, please contact:

Julia King, Executive Assistant

Tel: 807-623-3442 ext. 8588 · Email: onwa%23ca|jking

 



 

Open Letter to the Inquiry Commissioners

July 11, 2017

Inquiry Commissioners
Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
PO Box 500, Station A
Vancouver, BC
V6C 2N3

The Ontario Native Women’s Association would like to express publically our withdrawal of support for the continuation of the Inquiry in its current format and approach. After monitoring the progress of the Inquiry to date, as well as listening to the Chief Commissioner, Marion Buller on July 6th,, 2017, describe the progress of the Inquiry as “lightning speed” in spite of many delays over the past 10 months, we no longer have faith that this Inquiry will meet its mandate and work responsibly with families and communities.

We want to be clear. We want an Inquiry. We were part of the advocacy since 2005 that led to this Inquiry. We want the Inquiry to provide families with the opportunity to be able to share their stories of loved ones. We want families to get the answers that they need and for their experience at the Inquiry to be part of a larger healing journey. We also want the Inquiry to honour the women and girls, to hear the lessons from their stories; and transform these lessons into powerful recommendations for governments, institutions and communities to take up. We want the Inquiry to assist families in their healing and to help Canada, Indigenous nations and communities to provide the guideposts to the changes we need so that we do not lose any more Indigenous women and girls to violence. We do not
believe that the Inquiry in its current configuration can achieve these outcomes.

The Inquiry, as it is currently formed, is leaving us with significant doubts on the ability to achieve their mandate. Our concerns include:

a) Restarting the hearings in Thunder Bay

The Inquiry intends to restart their hearings in the Fall of 2017 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in the week of September 10th. At the announcement the Chief Commissioner
described how they have been working “on the ground” to get ready for these hearings. If they were working on the ground then they would know that Thunder Bay is not the best place to start in Ontario at this time. As she was holding her press conference, Thunder Bay was just finishing an emergency two-day meeting regarding the deaths of First Nations youth in Thunder Bay. The emergency session quickly moved to a broader discussion on how this violent act is just one example of the racial violence happening in Thunder Bay.

If in fact the inquiry was on the ground, they would also know that Thunder Bay, in the last year, has been dealing with many issues including: gangs, homicides, violence, and sexual exploitation of Indigenous women. The OIPRD has launched an investigation in the City of Thunder Bay. In June, 2016 the coroner’s inquest on the deaths of the seven First Nation youth concluded with 145 recommendations, and made clear that there are problems of racism in Thunder Bay. The situation of Adam Capay spending four years in solitary confinement in the Thunder Bay Correctional facility spurred the investigation by the Ontario Ombudsman’s office and has led to a larger provincial investigation. The ongoing attempted abductions of young mothers and their children; and the most recent deaths of Barbara Kentner as well as 14 year old Josiah Begg and 17 year old Tammy Keeash and other recent violent deaths in the city has left Thunder Bay vulnerable and in crisis mode. How can the Inquiry think this is the right place to start the Fall Inquiry hearings?

If the Inquiry had been working on the ground then they would have contacted community agencies that are working with the families and the community.
We expect that Indigenous organizations in Thunder Bay that provide services to Indigenous people would be contacted as partners to provide supports. Our community and families will be in need of healing services for their grief and trauma triggered by this process. ONWA has not been contacted, despite repeatedly reaching out to the Inquiry with a clear commitment to support them in their work. There are approximately 12 Indigenous service organizations in Thunder Bay. To our knowledge, none have been contacted. Who will be supporting community members after the week of September 10th when the Inquiry leaves? Who will support them throughout that week? As with the Pre Inquiry sessions, our communities were triggered and leaving agencies like ONWA to be reactive in crisis mode to support the families in providing healing services and meet their needs is irresponsible.

Located within the Terms of Reference the work of the Inquiry is to be trauma informed, respect communities and increase safety of Indigenous women. How does coming to a community in crisis reflect these values?

b) The lack of commitment and willingness to reach out to families

We understand that, as of July 2017, only 400 families have made contact with the Inquiry. Of those 400 families, each goes through a health process and then a legal process. Only 60 have reached the legal process.

Let’s look at who needs to be reached. The Pre Inquiry engagement sessions led by the Federal government had more than 2000 survivors and families members participate. The Native Women’s Association of Canada in the final report of Sisters in Spirit named over 500 Indigenous women who were lost to us. The RCMP report had 1,118 women lost to us. That report did not include all of the NWAC names and did not include all of the police forces in the country. Since the RCMP report, there have been another 40 women and girls lost to us. The Globe and Mail, APTN and CBC have been diligent in ensuring that their stories are told.

Each province and territory developed an Order in Council that committed them to work with the Inquiry in sharing all information that they had of Indigenous women and girls who are missing. We know that in Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General, through the Indigenous Justice Division, has done an excellent job of compiling a list.

We expected the Inquiry to work respectfully work with everyone who had names of our beautiful sisters and mothers. We then expected them to reach out to each family, to acknowledge their loss and to ask them if they would like to participate in any way with the Inquiry. Regardless of whether a family wanted to participate in the Inquiry, we would have wanted the Inquiry to connect families with services and programs to support their healing.

c) The lack of culture and ceremony

Where are the Elders in guiding this process? Where is the kindness and respect that would be reflected in all the interactions with the Inquiry if culture was at the core of this Inquiry? Part of our culture is to respect the voices of all Indigenous women regardless of their social and economic status; the Inquiry must not perpetuate violence against Indigenous women in this process by silencing the very voices that are the foundation of this Inquiry. The Inquiry must not further discriminate against Indigenous women based on their healing journey; all Indigenous women must be respected in this process.

Furthermore hosting only one regional session for the entire province of Ontario is not acceptable, as 22% of the Indigenous population in Canada has a relationship with Ontario. This approach does not address the diverse traditions of Indigenous peoples in the Province. As per the Terms of Reference that the Inquiry process is to be culturally appropriate and honour the diverse cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples.

d) The absence of strong Indigenous women’s leadership

Indigenous women’s leadership is about collaboration and being helpers in our community. We want to see strong Indigenous women reflected in this process. We have expected the Commissioners to show that strength in the way they planned, engaged with us and the way they engaged with ALL of the families who have lost someone.

Indigenous women are strong and we are regaining our strength. By talking about the level of violence in our lives we are showing our strength. Every family member who is willing to go through the Inquiry process is doing this work because they want answers and want to heal. There are also thousands of family members who are not likely to be part of the Inquiry process but we also see them as leaders. They are showing resiliency and strength. We recognize the strength of the family members who are leading this country by being prepared to share their pain and grief and their resiliency. We also recognize the family members who will not use the Inquiry as part of their healing journey. We expected the Inquiry to honour all families.

We support and recognize the Open Letter sent on May 15, 2017 highlighting concerns around not recognizing and supporting Indigenous women leaders that have a lot to offer and are the ones with the responsibility to do the work on the ground in the communities. Furthermore, we bring to your attention your directive “provide any person having substantial and direct interest in the subject matter of the Inquiry with an opportunity to participate in the Inquiry”.

How is the denial and non-recognition of Indigenous communities, agencies and women’s council’s application for standing reflective of this directive?

e) The lack of communication.

There are so many examples of communication issues: the website lacks information; there has not been any contact with Indigenous women’s organizations; the short and sudden announcements; the piece meal approach to information sharing; the delays in confirming standing with the Inquiry; the lack of information as to what that will mean; and there is not any coordination and/or communication with communities. Communities are vital to this process as they will be the ones to do the work after the Inquiry, and after the commissioners have moved into another session. There is a cultural protocol across many communities that must be respected and honoured called “Reciprocity” and you must travel on a road of mutual respect in order to make change, and be trauma informed.

A huge concern regarding communication is related to the value of listening, as an Inquiry you must be able to listen to the concerns and recommendations of communities and Indigenous women to provide substantive recommendations in the final report. In order for communities and expert witnesses to be prepared to present they must be well informed and be part of the process.

The inquiry is failing on all levels of communications.

f) The lack of procedural and legal fairness in the process

We are deeply concerned with procedural fairness and natural justice of the commission to date.

This area is so significant that we have had our lawyers prepare a separate letter.

g) The lack of a trauma informed approach

Very early on in the start of the Inquiry, we heard rumblings that the Inquiry would not be working with Indigenous women’s organizations. That rumour became a reality as each month passed and we heard nothing and our calls were not returned. We finally had conversations with the Inquiry in March of 2017 – seven months after the announcement of the Inquiry.

We expected the Commissioners to understand that the foundation for this Inquiry was ten years of rejection and shaming by the federal government (prior to Trudeau’s government). That rejection was directed at family members and Indigenous women’s organizations that were advocating for the Inquiry. As the Indigenous women’s movement, we went through a very difficult ten years. There were expectations of the families that organizations could not meet.

Instead of the Inquiry building bridges, their approach has at times deepened and promoted divisions.

The Inquiry must not be from only a western approach but must incorporate Indigenous pedagogy and approaches.

h) The legal focus of the Inquiry instead of looking at prevention

The Inquiry also intends to do 10 expert hearings. This listing is not meeting their Terms of Reference which is to look at “Systemic causes of all forms of violence, including sexual violence”. They appear to be focused on intervention recommendations as opposed to prevention models.

When we advocated for ten years for an Inquiry, this is not what we were advocating for. Family members’ having to contact the Inquiry instead of being respectfully contacted; Indigenous women’s organizations being left out of the process; and the lack of a trauma informed approach is unacceptable.

We do not have confidence in this Inquiry.

With respect,

Dawn Harvard
President
Ontario Native Women’s Association

cc.   Honorable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
       Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Development Canada
       Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

 



 

Law Offices of Edwards & Hollinger

RE: Ontario Native Women’s Association concerns with MMIWG Inquiry process

July 11, 2017

Marion Buller
Chief Commissioner
National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
P.O. Box 500, Station A
Vancouver, BC V6C 2N3

Dear Chief Commissioner Buller

RE: Ontario Native Women’s Association concerns with MMIWG Inquiry process

We represent Ontario Native Women’s Association (“ONWA”) at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (“MMIWG”). ONWA has been granted full standing at the Inquiry. In its submissions for standing, ONWA properly described itself as follows: “ONWA is the province wide not-for- profit advocacy organization for Indigenous women in the Province of Ontario.”

I write to express our client’s concerns with the recent announcement of a schedule for the Inquiry, and the lack of procedural fairness and natural justice provided to this party to date.

Full standing before the Inquiry brings with it a number of responsibilities. Among many other responsibilities, a party needs to be informed, prepared, and focused to ensure that the Inquiry proceeds in the most efficient and effective manner. ONWA takes its responsibilities as a party very seriously. The organization is devoting significant resources to preparing for the Inquiry, so as to be able to perform its role as required.

Parties with full standing also expect that the Commission fulfils its responsibility to the process. Unfortunately, ONWA’s experience to date has been a perceived lack of procedural fairness. As a result, the important work that ONWA must do to prepare to participate meaningfully in the Inquiry is being impeded.

A public authority has a duty to provide procedural fairness and natural justice to parties in its proceedings. As set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Baker v Canada, such procedural fairness includes providing a party with enough information about the process, and the substantive issues so that the party can meaningfully participate. Parties should have the opportunity to present their case fully and fairly, and have decisions made using a fair, impartial and open process.

ONWA has a legitimate expectation that the National Inquiry, which is a public authority, will fulfil its duty of fairness as the Inquiry unfolds. Regrettably, ONWA sees that such a duty of fairness has not been met in the recent announcement of a schedule for the Inquiry. This is most critically exemplified by the abrupt declaration that a hearing will be held in Thunder Bay in early September 2017, without any consultation with ONWA.

ONWA’s concern is that it has not, as a party, been provided the opportunity to present its case fully and fairly. ONWA has not been provided enough information about the process, and the substantive issues involved in the Inquiry, to participate meaningfully.

ONWA raises the following concerns to illustrate the shortcomings of the National Inquiry in regards to its duty of fairness to the parties:

The scope of the Inquiry has not been communicated to parties

ONWA understands that there will be 10 focus areas for expert evidence for the Inquiry. However, this information has not been communicated officially. ONWA is left speculating whether this information accurately reflects the scope of the Inquiry, and more importantly, what the scope of the Inquiry actually is.

The lack of communication around scope has also resulted in ONWA having no clarity on when or how an application can be made to expand or modify the scope of the Inquiry.

As a result of this lack of procedural fairness, ONWA is not able to know what or how to prepare for the hearing in Thunder Bay in September. This has made it difficult for ONWA to use its expertise to help the Commission create an effective and efficient scope for the Inquiry.

No indication of other parties has been provided

ONWA has not been informed of the identity of the other parties with standing to the Inquiry. As a result, there has been no opportunity for parties to confer on issues of mutual interest. In an Inquiry of this magnitude, it is extremely important for parties to work together to arrive at the best possible solutions as well as avoid duplication of efforts and witnesses. By providing no information of the other parties to the Inquiry, the Commissioners have restricted ONWA’s ability to determine parties with mutual interests, and to coordinate efforts to maximize efficiency.

Lack of indication of process for parties to follow

No meaningful information has been provided to parties regarding the process of the upcoming hearings. ONWA and other parties have not been informed whether or when they will be able to cross-examine witnesses. There has been no confirmation when expert reports will be presented. There are no synopses of anticipated evidence. There has been no indication of what any witnesses may be asked. There has been no outline of how expert witnesses will be handled.

It seems inconceivable that an Inquiry of this importance could be heading to hear witnesses, with procedural rules still marked “draft”. This lack of information regarding the process has made preparations for the Inquiry very difficult, resulting in a breach of ONWA’s right to natural justice.

ONWA has not been required yet asked to submit a list of witnesses. We have no idea if the witnesses will be expected to provide evidence individually or on panels with other related specialists. ONWA understands that there may be a meeting in August to discuss expert witnesses. ONWA has not been formally informed of this meeting, or invited, which makes it very difficult for ONWA to determine how to approach the evidence, what expert witnesses may be required, or whether any other party will intend to call the same or similar witnesses. This lack of information impedes ONWA’s ability to plan for meaningful participation in the Inquiry process.

No brief or witness information has been provided to parties

ONWA has been given no information regarding potential witnesses or families who may participate in the upcoming hearings, including any hearing in Thunder Bay. No brief has been provided with information regarding what a witness may discuss. No expert witnesses have been identified. As a result, ONWA has been forced to plan its strategy without the benefit of such procedural fairness as a list of witnesses or the topics to be addressed.

The failures to provide a list of witnesses, areas to be discussed, or a list of expert witnesses, as well as a general lack of information regarding the process of the hearings in Thunder Bay in September have made it difficult for ONWA to prepare to participate meaningfully in the proceedings.

The above concerns are merely a sample of the issues that have alarmed ONWA as a result of the announcement of the next hearing date in Thunder Bay in September 2017. This Inquiry is too important for the parties to be treated without procedural fairness. It is only with full participation of all parties that positive changes will occur. Full participation of the parties is not possible without procedural fairness and natural justice.

Companion Letter from ONWA’s President and Executive Director

ONWA is quite understandably regarded as the pre-eminent spokesperson and advocate for Indigenous women and girls’ issues throughout Ontario. Under separate cover, the ONWA President and Executive Director will write to you to express their profound dismay that the entire “region” of Ontario has only one hearing. The unique concerns of sisters from southern and eastern Ontario appear to be ignored by your scheduling.

They will also raise with you their profound concern that Inquiry could not have chosen a more inappropriate location for its first hearing. That selection reveals a breathtaking misunderstanding of the circumstances that will lead to further traumatizing of women and girls who reside in and around Thunder Bay. They will urgently request that you re-schedule the hearing that you have, without any consultation with ONWA, declared is to take place during the week of September 10th 2017.

ONWA has its head office located on Fort William First Nation, adjacent to the City of Thunder Bay. The City itself is situated on the traditional lands of the Fort William First Nation. ONWA agrees that at some appropriate time, the Inquiry should come to Thunder Bay. However, for reasons set out in the companion letter from the President, the Thunder Bay hearing must be moved to a later position on the list of communities where hearings will be held. Further, Thunder Bay should not be the only Ontario location.

ONWA deeply wants this Inquiry to succeed. It wants the Inquiry to put its best foot forward. It knows beyond doubt that commencing in Thunder Bay is a mistake.

In conclusion, ONWA believes that there are procedural issues that legally go the very jurisdiction of the Inquiry. In addition to the procedural issues raised, there are other practical concerns that cry out for the Inquiry to at least revise its schedule immediately. ONWA concedes that it may well make sense to have consultations with the communities during the summer. However, commencing the hearing in Thunder Bay on the date suggested is such a fundamental mistake that ONWA must reserve its legal rights in order to protect the women and children who would be harmed by this precipitous decision.

We look forward to your immediate reply on these issues and confirmation that you will not be proceeding with the Thunder Bay session this fall due to concerns we have highlighted.

We have copied Inquiry legal counsel on this correspondence. In light of the urgency of this matter, I am also instructed to copy this letter to the offices of the Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Wynne, Deputy Grand Chief Achneepineskum of Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, Minister Zimmer and the Office of the Attorney General.

Yours truly,

Robert C. Edwards

cc. Susan Vella and Christa Big Canoe
Dr. Dawn Harvard and Ms. Cora Lee McGuire-Cyrette
The Office of the Prime Minister
The Office of the Premier of Ontario
Deputy Grand Chief Achneepineskum NAN
Minister Zimmer
Office of the Attorney General

 

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