Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight in support of a successful national inquiry into the tragedy of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people. Canada needs this inquiry to succeed. We need to get to the bottom of why so many women disappeared. We need to support their families. We need to fix our social institutions to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent further tragedies like this.
It is in that spirit that I asked both on Friday and this afternoon if the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs is doing everything she can to have the inquiry succeed. Do the commissioners have full access to inquiry funding, and if not, who is delaying approval of those expenditures? The minister refused to answer. On Friday, she also answered, “We are confident that the commission has the tools, the resources, and the networks to ensure that voices of families are heard and that they have the support they need”, but that is not what the families and survivors are saying.
Yesterday the inquiry received a failing grade from the Native Women's Association of Canada, and also yesterday, 30 families and indigenous leaders wrote an open letter to the chief commissioner. They said that the process is in serious trouble due to delays and a lack of transparency and communication. Both reports issued yesterday suggested that the approval of the budget, as well as the lack of access to funds, may have contributed to those delays.
That is the question I am repeating tonight, because that is wholly within the realm of the Liberal government. It is not the independent inquiry but the government that has the responsibility to make sure the resources it promised are flowing to the commissioners and to the inquiry so they can do their vital work.
In the Native Women's Association of Canada report card, it said, “It is likely that outside factors, such as the approval of the budget as well as a lack of access to funds, may have contributed to the delays”. In an open letter published yesterday, an entire section was dedicated to the question of the independence of the inquiry. It says,
We were promised an independent inquiry, but it appears that many questions remain about the role of the Privy Council Office (PCO) in decision making.
These are the questions I put on the floor again tonight, the same questions. These are the exact words that were written in the open letter:
1. Does the [Privy Council Office] approve expenditures or does the Inquiry?
2. Has the Inquiry been hampered in its ability to support families or its work because of the [Privy Council Office]?
3. Has any of the budget for the Inquiry been spent to support [Privy Council Office] offices or civil service staff?
4. Can you demonstrate that the [Privy Council Office] has not or is not impairing the independence of this Inquiry?