Indigenous

MMIW inquiry could include Indigenous men and boys

Commissioners at the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) are discussing ways to include Indigenous men and boys in the inquiry, but some advocates and victims' family members say they don't want the scope of the inquiry to expand.

Families, advocates divided over whether to expand inquiry

Ernie Crey wants the national public inquiry to expand to include missing and murdered Indigenous men. (CBC)

Commissioners at the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) are discussing ways to include Indigenous men and boys in the inquiry, but some advocates and victims' family members say they don't want the scope of the inquiry to expand. 

"The focus of the national inquiry is Indigenous women and girls, but there are places where their stories are obviously interconnected with boys," commission spokesman Michael Hutchinson said from his office in Winnipeg.

"There is also the issue of violence against men and boys, so the commissioners are looking at how they can be involved," he added.

That inclusion, he said, could be something as simple as testimony gathering, or it could be something greater.

"When you get into LGBTQ and two-spirit issues involved in all this, it makes it hard to separate," he said.

The national inquiry's terms of reference — the document outlining its mandate — did not make mention of boys and men in the inquiry, and commissioners have told organizations such as the National Women's Association of Canada that the scope will not be expanded.

Hutchinson also said that there are budget and time restraints to consider.

'Violence is different for women'

Still, for those like Ernie Crey, who have been pushing for the inclusion of men and boys in the national inquiry, this signals a potential victory.

"I am very really happy about this," he said. Crey's sister Dawn went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in Dec. 2000. Her DNA was later found on convicted killer Robert Pickton's farm.

Crey heads the Coalition to Expand the Inquiry, which aims to shift the terms and scope of the inquiry to include men and boys.

"A lot of the missing and murdered boys and men share a similar experience  [with girls and women] of being removed from their communities and being placed in non-Native homes," he said.

Gladys Radek is an MMIW advocate whose niece, Tamara Chipman, is still missing after 12 years.
Gladys Radek holds a photo of her niece, Tamara Chipman, who disappeared in 2005 along Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, east of Prince Rupert, B.C. (Gladys Radek)

"We need an Indigenous men's inquiry, and I'd be more than willing to help them go through this process," Radek said.

"But the families fought long and hard for this national inquiry into missing and murdered women, and to change that agenda into [all] Aboriginal people — that's a totally different entity," she added.

She said a gender-specific focus is needed because violence is often inflicted differently on women and girls.

"We know that we are living through 500 years of several [types of] abuses, all of us. But violence is different for women on extreme levels because we are targeted for sex," she said from her home in Georgina Island, Ont.

'All voices' welcome

Representatives from Indigenous women's organization say, after speaking with the commissioners Wednesday, they are relieved to hear the scope of the inquiry is not expanding.

"NWAC welcomes the inclusion of all voices," Interim President of the Native Women's Association of Canada, Francyne D Joe said in an email to CBC News.

"Families and community members will be invited to share their experiences insofar as this potential information may be relevant to its overall mandate of examining systemic causes of violence, including sexual violence, against Indigenous women and girls," Joe said.

Hutchinson said the inquiry's testimonies are set to begin this spring and said the regional meetings will take place over the next few months across Canada. 

The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is expected to take two years. 

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