The Liberal government will outline Tuesday the consultation process that will be critical in shaping a national inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women – a first step that one federal minister said will create "momentum for action."
As part of the consultations, some relatives of missing or murdered aboriginal women are slated to have a closed-door meeting Friday with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and possibly other ministers at a downtown Ottawa hotel, a victim's family member told The Globe.
The ministers of indigenous affairs, justice and status of women will make a joint announcement in Ottawa on Tuesday, just hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses an annual gathering of chiefs organized by the Assembly of First Nations in nearby Gatineau.
The consultations will help determine the scope and duration of the inquiry, as well as who is best suited to lead it.
"We're at the very beginning stages and we have no preconceived ideas about what this is going to look like," Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters Monday. "We just really want to make sure that we honour the families and the communities."
The Liberals, who have committed to launching a probe by the summer, have said from the outset that "pre-inquiry engagement" with family members and other stakeholders is necessary to ensure the inquiry process and its findings are relevant to those who have been most affected by the tragedies.
Ms. Hajdu said the government envisions a two-phase approach in which it first sets parameters for the inquiry and then moves forward with the inquiry itself. "It's [about] making sure that everybody has a chance to shape this … as it will actually set forward some momentum for action," she said. The Liberals campaigned on a pledge to spend $40-million over two years on a federal probe.
Before the announcement Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau will speak to the chiefs at the AFN meeting, a signal of his commitment to forging a new nation-to-nation relationship with Canada's indigenous people. His predecessor, former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, did not meet with all of the First Nations chiefs in one room in the nearly 10 years he was in office.
The chiefs in Gatineau will also discuss what can and should be done to halt the violence that has claimed so many lives.
Indigenous leaders have long urged Ottawa to launch a national inquiry, with calls growing louder in the wake of a 2014 RCMP report that found 1,181 indigenous women were killed or disappeared between 1980 and 2012. The former Conservative government held the position that these tragedies are not part of a wider sociological phenomenon, but rather crimes best handled by police.
Members of the Harper government also argued that the problem is largely a matter of domestic violence. But a recent Globe investigation highlighted that this is not the whole story. It found that indigenous women are roughly seven times more likely than other Canadian women to die at the hands of a serial killer. Dr. Bennett said in an interview that the finding underscored the need for specific action to protect indigenous women from "sick and dangerous" people who have found novel ways to seek out their victims.
Now that Mr. Harper is no longer prime minister and Alberta MP Rona Ambrose is leading the Conservative party in its role of Official Opposition, the Tories say they will support the inquiry. "It's something that I think we should do," Ms. Ambrose told reporters Monday after the first Question Period of the new Parliament. "What I have said to the government, though, is please do not take years and years because we need to act."