QUEBEC – Quebec announced on Wednesday the creation of a provincial inquiry into relations between First Nations peoples and various government-run bodies.
The inquiry will be led by retired Superior Court justice Jacques Viens and will look into the way Indigenous peoples are treated by the police, the province’s youth protection agency, public health department as well as the justice and correctional systems.
Premier Philippe Couillard’s government had been under pressure from the opposition and native groups to launch an independent probe after native women in Val-d’Or accused six provincial police officers of sexual abuse.
A Montreal police investigation into the allegations did not result in any charges against the officers in Val-d’Or, about 530 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard, said the inquiry is “proper and will inspire trust.”
“We are ready to take the time that is needed and bring the appropriate energy to rebuild the trust that has been lost,” he said.
The commission of inquiry will be required to produce a report by Nov. 30, 2018 and will cover the past 15 years.
Testimony will be closed to the public in order to protect witnesses and personal information, said Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee.
“Native women will be able to express themselves in a context that is less restrictive and can propose solutions in order to help indigenous people receive better public services,” she said.
Quebec’s provincial inquiry will run in parallel to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.