Manitoba

Manitoba chiefs cry foul over province's stall to sign on with MMIW inquiry

A group of Manitoba chiefs is accusing the Manitoba government of playing politics instead of signing on to the federal government's inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Province concerned inquiry could overlap with issues already studied

Kevin Hart, the Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for Manitoba, said recent comments made by provincial Justice Minister Heather Stefanson are of "deep concern." (CBC)

A group of Manitoba chiefs is accusing the Manitoba government of playing politics instead of signing on to the federal government's inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Kevin Hart, the Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for Manitoba, said recent comments made by provincial Justice Minister Heather Stefanson are of "deep concern."

Stefanson, speaking to The Canadian Press earlier this week, said the Manitoba government supports a national inquiry but has concerns over potential terms of reference in one.

She said it was too early to get into details but said the province might take issue with how deeply an inquiry would go into the province's child welfare system. The system was examined more than a decade ago in a 2005 inquiry into the death of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair.

"We just want to make sure there is not overlap and duplication as far as Manitoba is concerned," she said. 

Hart called an inquiry "crucial," and said he was shocked with the province's refusal to sign on, noting he thinks Manitoba is "ground zero" for missing and murdered women.  

"I thought that Manitoba would lead the way when it came to this inquiry being announced," Hart told CBC News.

"There's families out there that have been waiting years and years just for some kind of an explanation about what happened to their loved one." 

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said the issue at hand is missing and murdered women but it's being pushed to the side. 

"It's an example of government putting political interests ahead of the safety and challenges facing indigenous women and girls," Nepinak said when reached by phone.  

Nepinak said he worries the concerns the Manitoba government has raised could end up stalling the start of an inquiry for a long time.  

"It's not a good move," he said. 

Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation Chief Jim Bear said he was also disappointed by the government's move.  

He said loved ones with family members that are missing or murdered want closure. 

"We don't want to be caught up in jurisdictional situations where we become political footballs," Bear said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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