The chief commissioner of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls says she has assembled a team of forensic investigators who are reviewing the activity of some Canadian police forces.
“We have always intended to investigate policing, and I think the best way of describing it succinctly is we intend to investigate the investigations,” said Marion Buller, a former B.C. judge, during her appearance before the House of Commons Indigenous affairs committee.
The inquiry has already sought files from the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Thunder Bay Police Service, she said. “They have been very co-operative, and forthcoming about their files,” she replied to a question from Ontario Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree.
Buller said the forensic team — which is comprised of Crown attorneys, defense lawyers and other experts — is looking to document common tactics used by police during investigations and the conduct used during interviews with witnesses to crime.
Some activists fear the inquiry’s terms of reference are too narrow and do not allow commissioners to examine the conduct of police forces, some of which have been accused of botching investigations into missing and murdered Indigenous women. There have also been claims of systemic racism in some police forces.
In a progress report filed with the Commons committee Thursday, the commissioners said reviewing individual files is very much part of its work.
“If we have concerns about the way a case was handled, we will make recommendations to the appropriate authorities for further action,” the report said. “Our forensic document committee — made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts — will review select files and will identify and propose solutions to systemic problems and promote practices to increase the safety and security of Indigenous women and girls.”
Despite assurances police forces would not escape the inquiry’s scrutiny, the commissioners said families should not expect public hearings to be conducted like a court of law.
“We do not mark exhibits or follow other courtroom-like procedures while the family member or survivor is talking,” the report said.