A lunatic, admittedly an antiquated term, comes from the latin “lunaticus” or “moonstruck”, referring to a mentally ill person, or as in this case, a person who is dangerous, foolish, or unpredictable. So this blog’s nomination for the most moonstruck politician in this current age is Marion Buller– the head of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls public inquiry –which is about to end (finally) its over two year long reign as the most ridiculous waste of taxpayer money in the last number of years.
This blog wrote about the then pending inquiry in February 2017; with a prediction that it was a massive waste of time, that it was pandering to the Indigenous but offered little to no hope of it helping the indigenous. Well, it has more than met all expectations and its delayed final report will hit the new stands on June 3rd, 2019. This too is late, and late after even having won an extension as it was originally supposed to be concluded in November 2018.
This inquiry started out with a projected cost of $70.5 million so from the start it promised to be the most expensive inquiry in Canadian history. Two years in, they then had the audacity to ask for an extension, wanting another two years which they didn’t get. They did get another $50 million bringing the un-official total cost in the neighbourhood of $120.5 million.
This group is so blind to taxpayer consideration, that in honour of their massive and brilliant undertaking, they are going to have a party and fund over 100 Indigenous communities to thank all the participants and in celebration of the “conclusion of this journey with us”. It is fully expected, that Jody Wilson-Raybould will enter the official party carried by six, like Lady Gaga at the 2011 Grammy’s; an entry befitting the media’s patron saint of reconciliation.
If ever there was a gathering of people with a one dimension interest and with a single purpose in the guise of an actual inquiry, this was it. The people assigned to this working group, started off with a set of beliefs and then set out to prove it, with a surfeit of anecdotal evidence. Witnesses testifying to a time frame between 60 and 100 years ago, often anecodotal, often based on story telling.
According to the inquiry of course, in their words, they have been diligently working on “exposing hard truths about the devastating impacts of colonization, racism, and sexism…aspects of Canadian society”. That was clearly their reason for being and that is what they set out to prove. There was no inquiring in this inquiry.
Throughout this time the inquiry has been persistently hampered by allegations of mis-management and in-fighting, and even factions of the indigenous wanted it scrapped.
According to their own web site, there was a total of 2386 participants; 1484 family members and “survivors” (the last residential school closed in 1996- some 23 years ago- to date the indigenous have been paid out $1.9 billion in compensation) and 819 of these participated through “artistic expression”. This inquiry was calling it “evidence” even if that evidence came through traditional story-telling and art. With this level of understanding of what actually constitutes evidence you should not be surprised later in this blog as to what some of her recommendations will be.
There were 83 “experts”, “knowledge keepers” (my favourite term) and “officials” providing testimony.
In January 2018, the Executive Director of the Inquiry, Debbie Reid resigned. The previous Executive Director had already resigned, as had one of the Commissioners. Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett had by now began admitting that she was concerned about the number of staff withdrawals. A total of eight people had resigned or been fired at this time.
In June 2018 Commissioner Audette threatened to resign because her request for a two year extension had been declined by Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.
Audette, returned to work a couple of weeks later and began to make excuses for the final report saying that “the final report will not be as comprehensive as it could have been” when she had been only given another six months and not the two years she requested.
In July 2018, lawyer Breen Ouelette resigned, the sixth lawyer to do so stating that the “inquiry was speeding towards failure”. Their primary allegation being political interference from the Federal government, that there was a lack of “transparency, communication and effectiveness.” Actively biting the hand that fed them.
In October 2018, Ms. Buller and Commissioner Michelle Audette were already expressing concerns that the government had not acted quickly enough after the release of its mid-term report. Buller described the interim report as “ground-breaking” and she was concerned that the final results may be ignored. She said that it was “horribly disappointing not only to us but to Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people all across Canada”. Ms Buller may be over stating the inquiry and its eventual impact, as there are very few people in Canada who would have read it at this time.
In November 2018 two further staff members left. This was in keeping with the mass exodus of staff, which by now had reached an epic 30 staffers.
It was about this same time that co-counsel Jennifer Cox, became the 7th lawyer to leave the inquiry. Buller of course had no comment, and the lawyers who are bound to confidentiality, conveniently remain muzzled.
Now, with only a couple of weeks to go before issuing the final report, the inquiry is still in front of the Federal Court trying to get access to two RCMP files. They are arguing that these two files represent the core of the inquiry’s mandate to look into the systemic causes of violence against indigenous woman.
Seems a little late to say the least, not to mention that they have had access to many files during this two year period, a total of 119 investigations, 23 of which were related to ongoing investigations. Department of Justice counsel argue that the two files aren’t necessary. The inquiry lawyer Ravi Hira said that there are deficiencies with “one of the cases”. A little suspicious to say the least. Even the Judge asked how they were going to possibly review two large files and still make it to the report.
Throughout this agonizing process, the Federal government remained mum, did not step in, forever fearful of being accused of being big colonial brother. Hoping beyond hope that all things would get worked out by some miracle of bureaucracy.
This inquiry was an act of appeasement. Bring all the indigenous together, give them unlimited funding, give them legal and technical resources, and then have hundreds testify to the same issue.
If you spent any time at all watching these the public hearing proceedings you will have seen the same thing, played out daily for hours upon hours.
A woman or man tearfully testifying, unscripted, often meandering off topic, and never a question asked as to the truthfulness of the testimony. All that was said was accepted. There would be rows of counsellors, holding religious or sacred icons comforting the woman, nodding sagely, dramatic empathy oozing. A parade of tears, some real, some brought about by pointed prodding.
The Indigenous political factions are consistent in only two areas as this Inquiry found out.
First, a time in history when they were present on the land before the arrival of the Europeans. They were here first and this translates according to their broad interpretations, to some form of veto over all things in Canada.
Secondly, they now realize that this is their golden moment, the Federal coffers have been opened up and they have a national government seeking their approval. All levels of government are woefully short of ideas on how to solve the multitude of indigenous endemic problems. So they throw money and apologize profusely.
However, other than for these two factors the indigenous groups are divided along hundreds of political lines. Some are wanting to invest in pipelines, some are protesting, but all are seeking financial redress of varying description. Others argue that they are one of two nations in this country. Some are arguing for laws to protect their rights while others argue that the laws of Canada do not apply to them. While some want to return and preserve culture and language, others are chasing dreams of casinos and medicinal marihuana stores.
This in-fighting infiltrates any and all proposed policy options, making it almost impossible to reach consensus. They don’t even agree on the Inquiry itself, some calling for another inquiry, some just giving up.
The only constant is the constant outreach for more funds and the hundreds of lawyers now pursuing those dreams on their behalf. The lawyers also being funded by the government.
It was clear from the start that the “inquiry” was made of a political necessity, not necessitated as should be the case by an actual need to know. The statistics already pointed to the hundreds of factors that result in missing and murdered indigenous: poverty, lack of education, drug and alcohol abuse, housing, nutrition, criminal activity, staggeringly high birth rates etc. It has already been calculated that 80% of the violence against indigenous women and girls is perpetrated by their own, their families, the friends, and the neighbours.
All this was known before the inquiry and the factors will still be the same after the inquiry.
The original Commissioners of this “Inquiry” were Buller, a member of Saskatchewans Mistawsis First Nation; Michelle Audette an Innu woman who failed to win a Liberal seat in Quebec; Qajaq Robinson a Nunuvut born lawyer who was legal counsel at the Federal Special Claims Tribunal; Marilyn Poitras, a Metis law professor at the University of Saskatchewan; and Bryan Eyolfson, a First Nations lawyer who served on the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and also in the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
The appearance of bias and slant could not have been more obvious. If there was an inquiry into the oil industry and all the Commissioners worked for Exxon and Shell would it be considered fair? If there was an inquiry into policing and all the Commissioners were members of the police would it be considered fair? Would there be an outcry? Of course, so why was there no outcry in the most expensive Inquiry ever taken on in Canada? Interestingly, the media was and remains completely mute.
So after this smorgasbord of like-minded social workers, lawyers, counsellors, and commissioners finish draining millions in their efforts, they are about to present that final report.
Recently, Marion Buller gave a hint of what was to come.
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs over Bill C-75, Ms. Buller suggests, that if it is an indigenous woman that is murdered, then it should be automatically first degree murder. She believes that the Indigenous should be treated differently legally, by the courts and the judges, in that they should get special consideration.
There are only certain provisions in the Criminal Code which allow for this automatic update to 1st degree murder; the killing of a policeman, a corrections officer, or in moments of terrorism.
But now, this former B.C. Judge, Ms. Buller, believes there are different classes of victims, and that the indigenous death is more serious than the others. The policeman and the corrections officers have been singled out as the jobs they do entail the protection of the general public. Ms. Buller now wants charge determination dependent on the colour of your skin or heritage.
She deems that this would be an act of reconciliation.
It would mean an automatic sentence of life and no chance of parole for twenty-five years. When it was pointed out to her that indigenous women are for the most part killed by their own, she was therefore advocating putting indigenous killers in jail for longer periods of time; she seemed taken aback. It was almost like she had never had seen that possibility.
The recommendation is ludicrous of course. Or is it?
With a coming election and the Liberals desperate to put Jody Wilson-Raybould behind them, would they consider such a criminal code change as an act of appeasement. Another apology if you will.
If you don’t think so, consider the latest Supreme Court of Canada ruling concerning the tragic case of the death of Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous sex trade worker. The accused was acquitted, but the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for “manslaughter”.
Justice Moldaver in a 4-3 decision writing for the majority stated in the decision: “As an additional safeguard going forward, in sexual assault cases where the complainant is an indigenous woman or girl, trial judges would be well advised to provide an express instruction aimed at countering prejudice against Indigenous women and girls”. It is not going as far as Ms. Buller, but it’s at the top of the hill, looking down the slippery slope.
Qajaq Robinson, of the MMWIG, who of course intervened in the case, called it a “tremendous step forward” saying that the courts have recognized that “in cases of sexual assault against Indigenous women and girls, that there is an obligation on the courts, on judges, to be gatekeepers to ensure that bias, prejudice, racism and sexism do not form part of the evidence…”
Again, on first blush this too seems somewhat logical, but there was no evidence of this being the case in this trial, it is based on a presumption.
Complicating this was the fact that the victim was engaged in a 2nd day of prostitution with this same man and the Crown argued that it went towards a determination of “consent” and therefore evidence of the victim being a paid sex worker was relevant.
So a new trial has been ordered.
But now have a Liberal leaning Supreme court warranting “express instructions” in the case of an Indigenous victim, a Federal Liberal apologist government, and a completely biased and unapologetic special interest Inquiry, all of whom may be taking us down a very dangerous road.
Section 15 (1) of the Canadian Charter of rights says that “everyone is equal before and under the law and has right to equal protection and equal benefit under the law”.
Apparently Ms. Buller doesn’t agree.
Photo Courtesy of the Canadian Press — Some Rights Reserved