The federal government announced Tuesday it was appointing a ministerial special representative who will be tasked with providing recommendations for the creation of an Indigenous and human rights ombudsperson role.
At an evening news conference, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Jennifer Moore Rattray, the former executive director of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, would fill the role.
The inquiry delivered its final report in 2019, which included 231 calls for justice to stem what it characterized as genocide against Indigenous women and girls.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted the findings, but his government has faced criticism ever since for not moving fast enough on the recommendations or taking other action in response to further deaths and disappearances.
“We see very legitimate cries for accountability,” Miller said Tuesday.
He declined to provide a timeline for when an ombudsperson could be appointed, saying he wants Rattray to steer the process and consultation.
The Liberals are facing renewed political pressure on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women after Winnipeg police confirmed late last year that they believed four women, including three First Nations women and a fourth woman who is still unidentified, were slain by a serial killer.
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Police said they believe the remains of at least two of the women, Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, are in a landfill outside the city. The third victim whose name is known was Rebecca Contois, and Indigenous leaders are referring to the fourth victim as Buffalo Woman, or Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe.
Ottawa has promised to fund a study about how to search the landfill site after police initially said a search would not be feasible.
Recently, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs issued a statement asking for the public to be patient as it says preparing the study is complex, and a second landfill in expected to be included in its scope.
The accused killer, Jeremy Skibicki, is facing four first-degree murder charges.
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On Tuesday, Miller referenced the murders in Winnipeg as evidence of the ongoing pattern of violence. He acknowledged that actions taken since the inquiry’s final report have not been enough to address the crisis.
He also announced that Indigenous organization Innovation 7 is being tasked with developing recommendations for an oversight mechanism to help the government track its progress in ending violence against Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ people.
The creation of both an ombudsperson role and an oversight mechanism were among the inquiry’s calls to justice.
Miller’s department says in a news release that the appointments reaffirm the government’s commitment to meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
© 2023 The Canadian Press
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