Indian Ernie: Inquiry for Missing Indigenous Women?

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There were indigenous woman and girls who were murdered over the course of my career for meeting someone in a bar, for walking down the street, and for breaking off a relationship and wanting to change their lives. In many cases the victims knew their killer but did not know how little value the killer put on their lives. Every killing deserved the full resources of the police and the courts, and while not a perfect system, in most cases the killers were arrested and convicted.  It is the unsolved murders and missing women and girls cases which tear at us every day.

Blaming the victim of a murder for anything is the most asinine of defences I have heard to the charge of murder. Not one of these woman or girls asked to be murdered or taken. I knew many of these victims. They were people. They laughed, loved and were loved.

I dealt with a young girl in Saskatoon when I was a fairly new constable with the Saskatoon Police in the late eighties and early nineties. With a big smile, crooked teeth and happy eyes, she always had a good attitude. She apologized for being involved in prostitution and apologized when she was a victim of crime.  She always said it was temporary and she would do better.

Then she disappeared.

I was not assigned the missing persons file and whoever was did not tell me he had the file.  So I did not know she was missing at all. I thought she had moved on like she always promised.

In 1992, by a golf course just outside of Saskatoon, the bodies of the victims of a serial killer named John Crawford were found. The girl was one of the victims. One of the detectives asked me if I knew her. I cannot describe the sadness I felt when I found out how she had died. Back then there were not a lot of resources available if she would have asked for help to get out of her situation and patrol officers were not told what was available.

Would it have made a difference back then?

I don’t know. It is one of the many “what ifs” every cop can say they have.  Racist sexual predators are rare thankfully, but every missing or murdered woman and girl file that is still open deserves a thorough investigation or a second look through fresh eyes.

When it comes to the issue of calling an inquiry to examine the issues around the murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada I am conflicted.

My passionate side says let’s do this and wherever it takes us it takes us.  My practical side says this will be a huge undertaking and could the treasure be better spent today on fixing the core issues. The problem with both points of view is each have merit so I have not slammed down my personal gavel for a verdict yet.  The government seems dispassionate almost to the point of indifference.  The aboriginal leaders, I have heard or read, are passionate in their calls for an inquiry and never mention the practical difficulties of holding this inquiry.

The families of the missing and murdered women and girls, I suspect, would like each case resolved and to know what happened to their loved ones more than anything else. As much as an overview of the whole situation would placate those crying out for social justice I think knowing what happened to and where our sisters and daughters are matters more.  So the practical side of me is going to break down the true cost of an inquiry.

As a starting point the Picton inquiry in British Columbia cost over one hundred million dollars and no one seemed satisfied at the end of it.

The one hundred million doesn’t include the cost of the investigation by police of the horrific murders. A national inquiry to examine 1200 or more cases of missing and murdered women and girls would involve thousands of witnesses and hundreds of thousands of pages of police reports. The inquiry would have to go to the witnesses or bring the witnesses to it.  There would be batteries of lawyers and support staff none I would expect would work for free. There will be parties who apply for standing and request funding. It will from what I have seen in the past grow in scope until it becomes so unwieldy it loses significance and its impact is lost.  I estimate the cost of national inquiry would exceed five hundred million dollars and that is being conservative. I suspect it would take three years at a minimum.  The report would be so lengthy and voluminous the average person would not even think to read it. None of which will bring peace to the families longing for answers.

Why would we do this? So at the end of the day we can say we did something?

The practical side of me says the money could be better spent on education, shelters and whatever else will reduce the risks to aboriginal women and girls today.  Governments and the rest of us cannot sit back and wait until it is someone else’s problem. Women and girls will continue to be murdered or go missing the entire time whatever process takes place.

Pointing fingers, assigning blame or calling people racist if they don’t agree to your position or accede to your demands is not leadership. It will not prevent the violence. Leaders need to lead.  Case by difficult case to lead, advocate and investigate. This is what the families deserve and how they will find some measure of justice.  I would support an inquiry but it would be with a heavy heart because it is in our ability to do something real right now.

We can do both at the same time if we want to divide our effort and make a half of a buttocks of a difference.

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