RCMP pitched parallel process for national MMIW inquiry
The Mounties came up with a review process to run alongside the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, according to a newly released document from the Justice Department.
The Canadian Press obtained a memo prepared for the deputy minister of justice that shows an official conducted an analysis of an "RCMP proposal for a parallel review process in support of the national inquiry," according to the title of the heavily censored March 8 briefing note.
The details are sparse, as most of the 18-page memo released in response to an access-to-information request was redacted, but a senior official with direct knowledge of the proposal said it was intended to allow the inquiry to focus on the underlying socio-economic issues without getting bogged down in individual cases.
The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the rationale was that the RCMP had the resources available to delve into specific allegations and files, and could assist the inquiry in tracking down those kinds of answers.
The document suggests the idea of a parallel review process developed out of a meeting RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson held with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu — the three members of the Liberal cabinet tasked with setting up the promised national inquiry.
It also addresses the fragility of the relationship between police and many of the families of the victims, who have complained their cases were not taken seriously, tainted by prejudice towards Indigenous women or otherwise mishandled.
"No specific communications can be given until further details are decided. However, it is clear from the pre-inquiry engagement gatherings that concerns over policing will be raised and there is a significant need to address the restoration of trust," said the memo.
Advocates had called for parallel process
The national inquiry, which does not have the power to find criminal wrongdoing, will not reinvestigate individual cases, although the commissioners do have the power to refer information they receive regarding criminal investigations or allegations of misconduct to the appropriate authorities.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer had no comment on the proposal referred to in the briefing note.
"The processes and terms of reference for the inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were developed for the government of Canada under the department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and not the RCMP," Pfleiderer wrote in an emailed statement.
Wilson-Raybould's office would not comment either.
Some advocates had called for a parallel process to review individual cases where families believed there was something wrong with the initial investigation, but stressed that the RCMP should not lead it.
"That level of distrust is just so high," said Kim Stanton, legal director of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, who had proposed a civilian-led independent review mechanism.
The Liberal government faced criticism from advocates and families this summer when a draft version of the terms of reference for the national inquiry, which was leaked to several media outlets, did not explicitly state the need to examine the role of police or their conduct.
The terms of reference unveiled Aug. 3 refer more broadly to underlying causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including institutional ones, which Bennett has said would include policing.