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Here's What We Know About Canada's Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

It launches Sept. 1 and will be independent of the government.

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The Canadian government today officially launched the long-awaited inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. Here's a look at the key details.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett announced the inquiry at an event held at the Canadian Museum of History. She emphasized that the inquiry is independent.

"It was repeated to us a number of times that the inquiry needed to be independent of the government," she said.

The inquiry will run from September 1, 2016 until December 31, 2018 and will cost $53.8 million.

Its mandate, according to the temporary website set up for it, is to "examine and report on the systemic causes behind the violence that Indigenous women and girls experience and their greater vulnerability to that violence by looking for patterns and underlying factors that explain why higher levels of violence occur."

At the press conference, Bennett said the inquiry "will also be empowered to assess institutions” and specifically mentioned the police and child welfare agencies, among others. Her mention of those two agencies was met with applause.

"[The commissioners] will also recommend ways of honouring and commemorating the Indigenous women and girls who were missing or were murdered," Bennett said.

The five commissioners overseeing the inquiry are led by chief commissioner Marion Buller. She is British Columbia's first female First Nations judge.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Minister Bennett called Buller "a person of great moral character whose work I respect and admire.”

"Our goal is to make concrete recommendations that will ensure the safety of our women and our girls in our communities," Buller said. "The spirits of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls will be close in our hearts and in our minds as we do our work."

The four other commissioners are:

Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS

* Qajaq Robinson, a Nunavut-based associate with the firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, and a former crown prosecutor who "has worked on a wide range of issues affecting Indigenous rights." She is the only non-Indigenous commissioner.

* Marilyn Poitras, an assistant professor of law at the University of Saskatchewan, and a former Native Court Worker whose "expertise and passion is around constitutional/Aboriginal law with a life study of customary laws."

* Michèle Audette, the former president of the Québec Native Women's Association.

* Brian Eyolfson, the acting deputy director of legal services for the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and a former lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The commissioners will be paid a salary and will also be reimbursed for travel expenses.

The Chief Commissioner of the #MMIWG Inquiry will receive a salary of $230,800 - $271,500.

The other 4 commissioners will receive a salary between $174 700 and $205 500. #MMIWG https://t.co/fKSXBgKAcc

The inquiry has the participation of all 10 provinces and three territories.

Under the federal Inquiries Act, the commissioners have the power to:

* Call witnesses to give evidence.

* Require people and entities to produce documents that are relevant to the investigation.

The inquiry does not have the power to find criminal wrongdoing, and its recommendations will be non-binding.

The ministers are asked, "how sharp will the teeth be" of the commission? Bennett: "The commission is not a criminal court." ...

Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced $4.5 million in funding to "to support victim services projects that will directly help the families" of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS

"Some of the families said they wanted to know more about what happened to their loved ones," said Wilson-Raybould, a former regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. "I found it hard to get the information."

To that end, she also announced $11.67 million in new funding to "help the provinces and territories establish new Family Information Liaison Units (FILU) within existing victim services departments." The funding is over the next three years.

"They will work with the families and local agencies and governments to help families find the information they seek about the loss of their loved ones," she said. "They will also help families deal with the trauma of their loss, and help them connect to the resources they require."

Minister of Status of Women Patricia Hajdu said the inquiry "is part of our promise to eliminate violence against women and girls."

CBC News / Via cbc.ca

She said it fits with a federal strategy to "eliminate gender-based violence."

"This is a tragedy and a disgrace and it touches all Canadians," Hajdu said. "We cannot move forward until we face and recognize and put a stop to this ongoing tragedy. [The inquiry] is the unflinching gaze needed to provide a country where all women and girls are equally safe."

CORRECTION

Qajaq Robinson is from Nunavut and speaks fluent Inuktitut but she is not Indigenous. This story incorrectly said all of the commissioners overseeing the inquiry are Indigenous.

Craig Silverman is Media Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.

Contact Craig Silverman at craig.silverman@buzzfeed.com.

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