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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with First Nations Leaders in Quebec (Reuters)
Newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a "total renewal" of the relationship between Canada and First Nations peoples. A first priority will be conducting a public inquiry into the circumstances of missing and murdered indigenous women. Calls for an inquiry have grown since a review found 1,181 indigenous women had been murdered or gone missing since 1980.
"We have made this inquiry a priority for our government because those touched by this national tragedy have waited long enough," Trudeau said at an assembly of First Nations chiefs in Gatineau, Quebec. "The victims deserve justice; their families an opportunity to heal and to be heard."
Canada’s Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, and Minister of Status of Women Patricia Hajdu outlined the first steps of the inquiry. "We will meet with the families in the national capital region with the goal of hearing their views on the design of the inquiry and what it needs to achieve," Ms Wilson-Raybould said. "And over the next two months, we will hear from more families, other indigenous peoples, national aboriginal organizations and a range of front-line services workers and others." Ms Bennett said they would "apply what budget it will take to do it right".
In addition to the inquiry, Mr Trudeau said his Liberal government is committed to:
- Providing more funding for First Nations education.
- Increased funding for programming and a review of laws on indigenous peoples.
- Removing the government’s 2% cap on funding for First Nations programs.
- Implementing suggestions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
"Working together as partners, I am confident that we can make meaningful and immediate progress on the issues that matter most to First Nations communities," Mr Trudeau said.