A quick word on how debate on a MMIW inquiry is being framed

I am seeing a disturbing trend in the multitudinous op-eds streaming out of the mouths and fingers of pundits on the issue of whether there ought to be a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW). While lip service is generally paid to the welfare of Indigenous women, two messages are actually coming out loud and clear:

  1. an inquiry will tell us nothing we do not already know and,
  2. we can have either an inquiry, or put the money into addressing the (known) root causes of the problem.

I want to address the second point first, because it is the most insidious, and apparently unquestioned of the two.

It is becoming an accepted truth that there is money out there, bulging out of a briefcase in someone’s office perhaps, just waiting to be spent wherever the public decides to aim it at. Apparently, though it is never stated so baldly, the Canadian public merely needs to make a choice: inquiry, or action NOW. It’s up to us!

This is a classic false dichotomy. Only limited alternatives are presented, when in fact there are many more ways to approach the issue. Allowing this to be framed as an either or situation is incredibly dishonest, but plays wonderfully into divide and conquer tactics.

Why so problematic? First off, the briefcase stuffed near to exploding with money does not exist. Neither for an inquiry nor for addressing underlying causes of Indigenous vulnerability. Can the money be found somehow? Absolutely, but that is not a given. What IS a given is that this government is incredibly hostile the the idea of an inquiry and has done next to nothing to address root causes so far, despite repeated calls to do exactly this. Just because the issue of a national inquiry on MMIW is gaining public traction does not mean we are going to somehow magically alter this government’s attitude. It is most certainly not the case that we, the public, will simply come to a decision and provincial and federal governments will march to our tune.

More damaging is the way in which the either/or ‘choice’ is being presented. Essentially, if you are one of the people supporting a national public inquiry into MMIW, then you are making a choice to spend all of the available (imaginary) funds on that INSTEAD of spending it to alleviate (supposedly known) root causes. You are delaying action. You are actively putting more Indigenous women and girls into harms way. You are going to be responsible for all of the Indigenous women and girls who are disappeared and murdered until such a time as an inquiry wraps up and action can finally be taken.

That is the logical extension of the logical fallacy at play here, and it is vile beyond compare. To allow this debate to be framed in such a way actively vilifies grieving families, vilifies grass-roots organizations, vilifies Indigenous peoples and Canadians who give a damn and want MMIW to become a priority. It is a way to once again place the entire blame for further violence on the heads of those who have been the ones doing their best to get these issues addressed. Decades of complete inaction on the supposedly universally known root causes of all this violence by various levels of governments are washed away clean by the claim that if only people would stop calling for an inquiry, real action could be taken. Apparently our saviours were there all along, just waiting for us to stop interfering.

I would ask that people discussing these issues in the media not accept this dichotomy and not allow themselves to be divided into two camps: either in support of an inquiry or in support of ‘action’. We can and should be engaging in both.

To those claiming we already understand all of the root causes, I say this. A quick survey of the op-ed pieces published in the last two weeks alone should quickly disabuse you of any notion that there is consensus on root causes. Theories vary widely, often ignoring the research that has been done on the issues, and more often than not doubling back to simply blame Indigenous peoples for not overcoming colonialism and systemic racism well enough or quickly enough. If that is what is so ‘well understood’ then a discussion on a national level is sorely needed, and the sooner the better.

Indigenous peoples are calling for a national investigation that is centered on the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and they are also calling for immediate action. This nation is rich in monies directly derived from Indigenous lands and resources. Please don’t try to tell us Canada just can’t afford to do both.


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14 Responses to A quick word on how debate on a MMIW inquiry is being framed

  1. sameo416 says:

    It’s a question of fundamental justice being denied. It deserves action on all possible fronts simultaneously.

  2. Thank you!! I have been caught up in a few ‘debates’ within those opinion pieces readers and sometimes I feel like I am drowning in pure 19th century colonialist mentalities.

    The simplistic either/or sides demanded frustrates because there is still pervasive unwillingness to accept the honest history of our own country and how it relates to all Indigenous Peoples currently or historically, I cannot grasp how many are willing to re-write that history to suit their own purposes in support of whatever fear of loss they have about paying attention to, and working, to resolve the issues within First Nations et al communities.

    I realize there is a lot of work to be done to inform and educate across the board, including, and especially, in teaching the history lessons for school children, so patience and steady effort is still the order of the day. But, still some days…

    I so hope that it won’t be so long before Canada faces, accepts and works through the consequences of its history for the very real reward of betterment for all Indigenous Peoples and the rest of the country.

    • parentassets says:

      Agree- that ” history” of colonialism- the destruction of ” peoples” culture- dignity- health did not take long but rebuilding their dignity- self concept- will a LONG time. The sad part is that “blame” game h as not stopped from the GOVT. as well as the people. In my view the RECENT immigrant/Canadians- eg my parents- grandparents from countires other than Europe- DO NOT know the history of the Aboriginal people- and are as naieve to the ” exploiotation” and the REservations- and the REsidential school SCARS that Native people bear. It is worth noting that the last RESIdential school to be closed was just RECENTly- in the 80’s.
      Yes, the Curriculum needs to include the historical analaysis – but as articulated in the article, money is there and actions need to be taken on both fronts- Inquiry ( eventhough I feel that there is nothing NEW it will tell us- after spending millions of dollars to fill p[ockets of those lawyers- and others on these committtees… etc.. as we SAW on the Picton CASES in Vancouver- but actions need to be taken on the front of Aboriginal Youth.


  3. daveM says:

    Canada, for some reason, seems to disregard the welfare and well being of its Aboriginal people. There is an attitude that requires illumination.

  4. Debby Offermann says:

    Thanks for this – I’ve been engaged in a few debates with folks on this issue and my instinct is that we can certainly afford both. Whatever we can do should be done and as fast as possible. Some of us ‘white’ folks want to help and are out there demanding action for both of our public officials. We’ve signed petitions for quite a while and lobbied our MPP and MLA. We grandmothers do network so when the time comes remember we’re here and want justice both for the crimes against young women and for the first peoples of our country.

  5. donnae says:

    Just caught your article on CBC and was impressed. Just wanted to drop by and thank you. The either/or tactic has driven me crazy since I took Logic at university and it named the villain. Well executed refute. Thank you.

  6. Tara Sundberg says:

    Thank you for pointing out the logical flaw in the way the Givt. presents this issue! I have to stop myself from reading the comments section in anything published by the Globe & Mail – wow, we Canadians are really RACIST! It’s so sad! A sensible first step that could be taken even before a decision is made on the inquiry would be to do rigorous cultural training for all levels of law enforcement and judiciary in our country. These are the folks who stand in the way of justice for our indigenous people. Some of our worst racists wear badges – this has to stop

  7. ken Cunningham says:

    Can the author or anyone else let me know why there seems to be so many differences in stats between The 210 NWAC sis report that i am making my way through, and the recent RCMP report that cites something like a 90% solve rate on murders of Aboriginal women? Obviously the 2010 report is not up to date, but j who did the RCMP research for them and is it reliable The 2010 sis report cites a solve rate of barely more than 50/% overall. There seem to be a number of other discrepancies between the 2 reports as well. Have the sis endorsed the RCMP report at all?

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  9. Watachie says:

    It’s my understanding that there’s something like 75 commission/inquiry reports costing millions of dollars sitting on shelves somewhere in government filing rooms. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to glean the best from these, before embarking on another that will only profit lawyers and consultants. The objection is not too the inquiry or the cost from my point of view. It is the idea of enriching a few inquiry-junkies to produce another report that will once again be ignored rather than using the information already available first to set the stage.

    • There definitely needs to be a commitment to implementing the many recommendations that have come from previous inquiries and commissions. It is not so much that no one knows or understands the underlying issues that face so many Indigenous peoples, but rather that there is a distinct lack of public will, both personal and political, to making change that goes beyond addressing symptoms in emergency situations.

      • Watachie says:

        Personally, I don’t think the politicians yelling for this inquiry have the best interest of the indigenous peoples at heart, but rather seek an opportunity to beat the government over the head with the victims as the stick. Personally I would prefer the federal government to inaugurate a joint investigative task force made of Aboriginal and RCMP police investigators. I would like them to have powers to hire expert staff, go anywhere, ask any questions and arrest anyone when they find evidence to prove them involved in wrongdoing. I would want this unit to be independant and have adequate funding and the time needed to do whatever is necessary to bring the guilty to justice. I have no interest in whatever else goes on in the gamesmanship world of the politicians and aboriginal leaders. I want the victims avenged and the guilty to pay. All the rest is pure bs.

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