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Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister, said the government is considering a request to extend an inquiry into the killings and disappearances of indigenous women and girls. — AFP OTTAWA : A national inquiry into the high rate of killings and disappearances of indigenous women and girls in Canada asked the government on Tuesday for more time to do its work.

Since its launch in September 2016, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has been beset by infighting and criticism.

Several staff quit, while victims’ families protested their lack of full inclusion in the process.

The inquiry, however, has attracted a large number of participants across Canada — 763 witnesses in all — and Commissioner Chief Marion Buller, in asking for an extension, said, "We have a sacred responsibility to keep moving forward".

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett acknowledged the request and said the government would announce its decision soon.

"In the coming weeks, I will be discussing this request with families, indigenous partners, provincial and territorial counterparts and my cabinet colleagues," she said.

An extension of the inquiry would require a doubling of its original funding to Can$104 million (RM313 million).

The inquiry was the culmination of years of lobbying by native leaders, activists and victims’ families seeking to know why more than 1,200 indigenous women were murdered or have gone missing over the past three decades.

Indigenous women represent four percent of Canada’s population but 16 percent of homicide victims.

Tasked with digging into the root causes of this violence, and granted powers to summon witnesses and subpoena documents, the panel led by Buller was to report its findings and make recommendations later this year.

If the extension is approved, it would conclude its work at the end of 2020.

Buller said the commission "needs more time to complete the work in some areas of investigation, research and commemoration".

She said an extension would allow for more victims’ families to be heard, and enable the inquiry to reach out to the LGBT community and indigenous women who are incarcerated, homeless or trafficked.

Similarly, the inquiry could better take into account regional issues, and order original research to fill gaps related to the criminal justice system and the impact of colonialism on indigenous communities. — AFP

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