US & Canada

Canada's Justin Trudeau promises First Nations murder enquiry

Justin Trudeau Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Trudeau promised a government inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in an appeal to First Nations chiefs.

The public inquiry will be "top priority" of the Liberal government, the newly elected leader said.

He called for a "total renewal" of the relationship between Canada and First Nations peoples.

Mr Trudeau promised increased funding for programming and a review of laws on indigenous peoples.

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," he 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."

After Mr Trudeau's speech, 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".

Mr Trudeau said the Liberal government will provide more funding for First Nations education.

Every child and young person living in Canada deserves a chance for a good education, he said, and First Nations students are "no less deserving".

The 2% cap on funding for First Nations programs previously upheld by the Canadian government will be lifted, he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Trudeau said he wants a renewed relationship with First Nations people

He said he is committed to implementing suggestions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including an implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A report released this summer by commission, which was created in 2006 as part of a $5bn (£3.3bn) class action settlement between the government, churches and 90,000 First Nation students, found that First Nation children were often physically and sexually abused in state-funded church schools.

The Canadian government forced more than 150,000 First Nation children to attend these schools from the 19th Century until the mid-1990s. The schools sought to integrate the children into mainstream Canadian society, but in doing so rid them of their native culture.

"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.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau won a parliamentary majority in a general election on 19 October.

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