Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Inquiry Will Have to Examine Police Conduct, Child Welfare System: Bennett

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Inquiry Will Have to Examine Police Conduct, Child Welfare System: Bennett

Article excerpt

Inquiry will examine police conduct: Bennett

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OTTAWA - Policing will require close examination during the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Thursday after questions were raised about a draft copy of the terms of reference.

The "uneven application of justice" -- including everything from the quality of police searches to investigations themselves -- will require review because outcomes seem to be affected if victims are indigenous women, Bennett told The Canadian Press.

This is precisely why the federal government needs to get provinces and territories, currently reviewing the terms, on side with the inquiry's mandate because policing and other issues cross jurisdictional boundaries, she said.

"This was the difference between a federal inquiry and a national public inquiry and none of that has changed," Bennett said.

The minister's remarks come a day after draft terms of reference for the inquiry were circulated online. They did not explicitly state the need to examine the role of police or their conduct.

Issues with officer behaviour and investigations were raised by families of murdered and missing indigenous women during the government's pre-inquiry consultation period.

If the inquiry's commissioners are going to have the capacity to examine police conduct, that should be built into the terms of reference, advocates said Thursday.

"It doesn't have to be explicit," said Christa Big Canoe, the legal advocacy director at Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto.

"It just has to be that police investigations are on the table."

It is one thing for the government to say it will be included but it is another thing to do it, she added.

NDP Status of Women Critic Sheila Malcolmson also believes the draft terms of reference fall short.

"It is critical that consultations with indigenous families and communities affected be central to drafting the terms of reference," she said in a statement. …

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