The MMIW Gets More Money

Commentary, Aboriginal Futures, Brian Giesbrecht

The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry (MMIW) was back in the news recently. They asked the federal government for a two year extension on their mandate, and an additional $50,000,000. They have apparently already burned through the $54,000,000 they had originally been granted. Their request was granted in part. Their mandate has been extended for another six months, and they will receive additional funding, in an amount not yet determined. Whether this will be the last request for more money by the MMIW is not known.

Considering the fact that the people conducting this Inquiry are spending such a lot of money – money that comes from you and me – it is legitimate to ask what they hope to achieve.That question is particularly relevant considering the fact that previous inquiries have already provided most of the answers to the questions about policing, as well as more generally, about the dismal circumstances of so many Indigenous people in this country.

The Inquiry that delved into the gruesome murders committed by Robert Picton in British Columbia concluded that although a disproportionate number of Indigenous women were in the unfortunate group preyed upon by ghouls like Picton – namely women living on the margins, often with addictions, and often involved at the low end of the sex trade – the police solved the cases of missing Indigenous women at about the same rate as they solved the cases of missing non-Indigenous women. So, that question has been answered.

If the Inquiry plans to make suggestions about how the police should change procedures, they should know that previous inquiries have already made useful suggestions, and that the RCMP has responded by making relevant changes long ago.

Or, if the plan is to suggest that police officers do their jobs in a culturally sensitive manner, the Inquiry should know that the police have received that message for years now, and they have probably received about as much cultural sensitivity training as they need. Those issues have been taken care of.

And if the MMIW seeks answers to the question of why such a disproportionate number of Indigenous women fall into the category preyed upon by killers – namely the poor, addicted women on the margins of society – they should know that previous Inquiries, such as The Manitoba Justice Inquiry, and The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples of 1996, have long ago concluded that the reasons are the same ones that account for the disproportionate number of Indigenous people being on the bottom rung of the ladder in virtually every respect. So, those questions have also been answered.

The fact is that there is precious little left to inquire into on these issues.

However, if the Inquiry chooses to honestly inquire into the reasons why Indigenous women are much more likely to be the victims of violence and murder than other women, then there is plenty of work for them to do.

I am not talking about the usual bromides like “colonialism”, “residential school”, “The 60s’ Scoop” and the like. I am talking about the fact that Indigenous women are far more likely to be beaten or murdered by their partners than are non-Indigenous women. That is, the perpetrators of violence against Indigenous women in the overwhelming percentage of cases are Indigenous men. This is a national scandal.

And that is where the missing women come from – from dysfunctional families and communities where they were victimized, first by male family members when the girls are still children, and then as adult women by their abusive male partners.

Will the Inquiry honestly examine this fundamentally important aspect of violence toward Indigenous women? Should the focus of the Inquiry not be squarely on the people perpetrating the violence – namely Indigenous men? Or will the MMIW – after spending its millions – choose to simply blame the police, the government, “colonialism” and the like – thus giving those abusive men an excuse to continue abusing?