• National inquiry wouldn’t impact investigations: RCMP
Sep 02, 2014
The director of the RCMP’s aboriginal policing unit says a national inquiry is “immaterial to the prevention efforts that we are implementing” and wouldn’t impact the force’s investigations.

Facing renewed calls for a national public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women, the Conservative government remains steadfast in its position that action is needed to solve the crimes rather than an inquiry. 

RCMP superintendent Tyler Bates, director of the force’s aboriginal policing and crime prevention services, said an inquiry wouldn’t interfere with its work.

“I don’t really see the issue of a national inquiry as impacting in any way our ongoing efforts. We’re focused on investigating criminality and the resolution of outstanding cases and tracking our efforts as far as those outstanding cases are concerned,” he said in an interview with The Hill Times

“We are focused on the task at hand.” 

Various Cabinet ministers have raised the concern that a national public inquiry into missing and murdered women would impede current investigations. 

Last week, Heritage Minister Shelly Glover (Saint-Boniface, Man.) told reporters that the families she’s spoken to say that finding who is responsible for the crimes is what’s most important to them. 

“And we should provide a situation where the police can in fact do their investigations,” she said.  

The head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Clive Weighill, said during the organization’s annual meeting last week that it won’t be supporting a public inquiry. He instead called on all levels of government to address the contributing systemic issues. 

“A national inquiry may shed some light on this, but as Canadian chiefs, we don’t want to delay action,” he said.

Ms. Glover, a Manitoba Métis who worked as a Winnipeg police officer before entering politics, backed the chiefs of police’s call.

“It’s about time we allow the police to continue the work that they’re doing without interruption and they’ve been very vocal about not wanting any delays,” she said in an interview with CBC News.

Despite the sentiment that an inquiry could impede action, Mr. Bates think’s it’s a political question that isn’t distracting the RCMP. 

“We have our eye on the ball in terms of trying to make a substantive difference and contribution in the next phase of our work and to do so in collaboration with all who would come alongside us in that work,” he said.

The calls for a national inquiry dominated headlines in recent weeks after 15-year-old Tina Fontaine’s body was pulled from Winnipeg’s Red River last month, wrapped in plastic, after she had gone missing in July. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) responded to calls for a national inquiry by saying it was a terrible crime that deserves a thorough police investigation and shouldn’t be considered a “sociological phenomenon.” 

The RCMP released a report in May that included both anticipated and some unprecedented findings. Between 1980 and 2012, 1,181 indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered. The study also showed that there are still 225 unsolved cases: 120 unsolved homicides and 105 missing where the circumstances are unknown or foul play is suspected. 

The commanding officers in charge of pursuing those open cases have yet to report back on their progress, said Mr. Bates, but having this information has been crucial to informing their awareness, prevention and enforcement strategies.  

“Certainly you can speculate on the social contributors that place women and girls at risk but some validation of that statistically is certainly helpful,” said Mr. Bates.

However, the database that brought together police files and the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s historical research to complete the RCMP study is no longer active. Mr. Bates said that would involve an ongoing resource commitment and “there doesn’t exist the capacity to do so at this juncture.” 

The RCMP does continue to track the number of female homicides in Canada, as well as the proportion of those that involve aboriginal women. 

raiello@hilltimes.com