Ministers will meet with the families of missing and murdered indigenous women in Ottawa this week, as the federal government launches the first of two phases in the creation of a much-awaited national public inquiry.
"I am pleased to announce that the government of Canada is launching its first phase of the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and girls," Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said at a news conference Tuesday on Parliament Hill.
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"As a first step, we will meet with the families in the National Capital Region with the goal of hearing their views on the design of the inquiry and what it needs to achieve. And over the next two months, we will hear from more families, other indigenous peoples, national aboriginal organizations and a range of front-line services workers and others."
Wilson-Raybould, who is the first indigenous person to serve as a justice minister, worked as a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations prior to being elected to Parliament.
She said that early calls for an inquiry had been met "by silence," but that victims' families "deserve better."
"Doing better requires openness and the ability to listen. We have heard this loudly and clearly, and we have heard that this cannot be just another report," Wilson-Raybould said.
The Harper government had rebuffed growing calls for a national inquiry, saying the government action on crime precluded the need for further studies.
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AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde welcomed the announcement, which he said "has been a long time coming."
"After years of denial and deflection, it is my hope we can make real strides in achieving justice for families and achieving safety and security for all our people," Bellegarde said in a written statement.
Phase 2 coming in the spring
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said today's announcement will set a new tone for "a collaborative, inclusive" process.
Bennett said the first phase of the inquiry would determine its objectives, focus and parameters.
"It will also help identify potential terms of reference for the inquiry, outline possible activities and participants, and potentially help identify the commissioners."
Bennett said the first phase will take as long as needed "to get it right."
"Phase 2 will be the actual inquiry itself, and we hope to be able to announce that next year, in the spring," Bennett said.
Interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose kept her remarks brief, telling reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the Liberals were "off to a great start."
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair gave the government a nod for moving ahead with a process to launch an inquiry, but expressed concern over the lack of a fixed launch date.
"Given the urgency of this national crisis," said Mulcair during question period, "can we expect a report by the end of 2016?"
Trudeau did not answer the question directly, saying only that the government was committed to doing "this right."
The Liberal Party platform pegged the cost of a full national public inquiry at $40 million over two years starting in 2016.
'The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to be heard and to heal.' – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Speaking to a group of First Nations leaders earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the launch of an inquiry was "a priority" for his government.
"The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to be heard and to heal. We must work together to put an end to this ongoing tragedy."
The RCMP found in 2014 nearly 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012, a number the Mounties said exceeded previous public estimates.
A 2015 United Nations report found that young First Nations, Métis and Inuit women were five times more likely to die under violent circumstances than their non-aboriginal counterparts.
MMIW: CBC investigation
CBC News will tweet the name and stories of over 250 missing and murdered indigenous women profiled in our online database after today's announcement.
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls by exploring the stories of these women, their families and their communities.
If you know anything about any unsolved MMIW case, email us at MMIW@cbc.ca.