First Nations Leadership Council

March 04, 2011 17:32 ET

First Nations Leadership Agrees with Expansion of Commission

Missing Womens Commission of Inquiry recommends BC grant the Commission powers of "joint study and hearing commission"

Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor VANCOUVER, BC, NEWS RELEASE--(Marketwire - March 4, 2011) - OPEN LETTER

March 4, 2011

Honourable Barry Penner
Ministry of Attorney General
PO Box 9044 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Telephone: 250 387-1866
Fax: 250 387-6411

Dear Honourable Minister Penner:

The Missing Womens Commission of Inquiry ("Commission") has recommended that, based on community feedback and concerns heard at two pre-hearing conferences in January and through media reports and community organized forums, the Lieutenant Governor in Council grant the Commission the powers of "joint study and hearing commission".

The Commission is of the view that this expanded power to also be a study commission would:

* Allow the Commission to address the concerns of the community by giving the Commission increased flexibility over its process, including the ability to engage directly with the public outside of the formal hearing process,

* Permit the Commission to fashion different forms of participation to participants' interests, abilities and expertise (applicants who may not strictly meet the test for standing in a hearing commission could still be involved in the study portion of its work),

* Allow a more inclusive process and participants could speak to the Commission directly without the formalities of the adversarial process, and

* Enable the Commission to craft a more focused but still thorough, and fair, hearing process.

We share the Commission's interest and goal of accommodating important community concerns through an expanded mandate, in particular:

* The need for an accessible and community-driven process,

* Ensuring vulnerable and marginalized individuals are not discouraged or be made to feel excluded by an overly formal process,

* Ensuring the emotional needs of the victims' families are respected and supported,

* Involving Aboriginal groups in a manner that is culturally sensitive, and

* Giving northern communities affected by the ongoing missing and murdered women investigations from the Highway of Tears an opportunity to participate meaningfully without compromising those investigations.

Our organizations commend and support the Commission's effort to be responsive to the important input of community members. We agree that a flexible and inclusive process will improve the Commission's ultimate recommendations by ensuring the process is:

* Appropriately contextualized,

* Culturally sensitive, and

* Suitable for northern communities affected by the missing and murdered women along the Highway of Tears.

This is a positive development as the Commission is trying to ensure all relevant voices are heard including, most importantly, the victims' families, in an appropriate and respectful manner.

We look forward to the Government of British Columbia's positive response to the Commission's recommendation.

Sincerely,

FIRST NATIONS LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

On behalf of the FIRST NATIONS SUMMIT:

Grand Chief Edward John
Dan Smith
Chief Douglas White III Kwulasultun

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Chief Bob Chamberlin
Chief Marilyn Baptiste

On behalf of the BC ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS:

Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould

cc:
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Assembly of First Nations
Wally Oppal, Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
Hugh Braker, President, Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC
BC First Nations
/For further information: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs (250) 490-5314; Grand Chief Ed John, First Nations Summit (778) 772-8218; Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, BC Assembly of First Nations (604) 922-7733
/ IN: JUSTICE, POLITICS, OTHER

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    Primary Phone: 250-490-5314