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Why Indigenous Groups Are Cautiously Optimistic About An Inquiry Into Missing And Murdered Women

The new Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister minister said they'll be starting preliminary consultations soon.

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Canada's new Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister is getting the ball rolling on an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, according to a report.

Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Carolyn Bennett said pre-inquiry consultations will begin within the next "couple of weeks."

That process, according to The Canadian Press, will include speaking with the families of victims, Aboriginal leaders and organizations.

It's welcome news for the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), but she said there's still cause for concern given how other inquiries have been handled in the past.

"I think it's good that they're starting," said Dawn Harvard, president of the NWAC.

"They're holding true to their promise not to waste time sitting around, they know this is a priority, and they're going to get it started."

The issue now is how the new government will approach and which voices will — and won't — be included.

"We just want to make sure that, with the consultation process, they take the time once they've started to make sure they do it right," Harvard told BuzzFeed Canada. "We obviously want to make sure that the families voices are heard, that the families are at the forefront."

In 2010, an inquiry was called to investigate how police in B.C. handed the case of Robert Pickton. The pig farmer was convicted of killing six women and accused of murdering 20 more — many of whom were Aboriginal.

Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

The inquiry came under fire from advocates who said not enough was done to hear from affected, marginalized communities or to look at underlying human rights issues.

"We want to make sure we learn from the B.C. commission where there were significant flaws with the process," said Harvard.

"The women who were dealing with the human rights issues on a day-to-day basis were denied participation."

Holding an inquiry that considers the impact of Canada's residential school system was one of the 94 recommendations outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation's report. Harvard agrees that looking at root causes will be crucial.

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

"You can’t have a conversation about violence against indigenous women without the residential school system being included," said Harvard.

"It can’t be just about finding justice for those families, but also identifying the key voices that are going to be able to speak to the larger human rights [concerns] that are contributing to the issue."

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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