B.C.'s first female judge has been named chief commissioner of a federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Marion Buller-Bennett, who rules on cases in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court, will head the five-member panel.
The four other commissioners appointed today include Michele Audette, former president of the Native Women's Association of Canada. The others are Nunavut-born Ottawa lawyer Qajaq Robinson, University of Saskatchewan constitutional expert Marilyn Poitras, and human-rights lawyer Brian Eyolfsonn. They all have extensive experience dealing with indigenous legal issues.
"Judge Buller-Bennett will bring leadership and experience to this important and historic process," said B.C. attorney general Suzanne Anton in a news release. "The B.C. government is pleased to confirm B.C.'s support for, and intention to participate fully in, the national inquiry. B.C. is heartened that across Canada the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is getting the attention and leadership it deserves."
The inquiry is expected to take place from September 1 to December 31, 2018. The federal government has estimated it will cost $53.8 million.
The commissioners do not have a mandate to make any determinations of criminal wrongdoing.
In 2014 the RCMP released a report citing 1,181 cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada between 1980 and 2012. Of those, more than 1,000 were victims of homicide.
In 2010, the Native Women's Association of Canada created a database of information concerning 582 missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. It found that 67 percent were murder cases, whereas 20 percent involved missing women or girls. The remainder were "suspicious" deaths or where it was unclear if the person was murdered, missing, or died in suspicious circumstances.
According to the association, only 53 percent of murder cases involving aboriginal women and girls resulted in homicide charges being laid.
A Native Women's Association of Canada pamphlet noted that in 2005, Statistics Canada reported that the overall clearance rate for homicide in Canada was 84 percent.