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More than 60 Indigenous families from Quebec took part in the Mani-Utenam hearings at the end of November. (Julia Page/CBC) A group of families of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls now has standing in the national inquiry, enabling them to participate in ways beyond testifying.

After the group filed Federal Court action over the issue last week, the inquiry delivered a ruling Wednesday stating that the commissioners had unanimously decided to grant standing to the 20 families, who formed a group called Families for Justice.

"Families for Justice have demonstrated that they have a direct interest in the subject matter of the national inquiry," said the ruling.

Families for Justice represents families from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.

Standing gives the group direct input into the development of recommendations and provides them equal legal footing with the other agencies and governments that have already been granted standing.

Standing has so far been granted to 95 groups, including the federal government and the governments of all 13 provinces and territories, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, First Nations, Inuit and Métis women’s groups and several police services.

The ruling also said that Chief Commissioner Marion Buller would recommend that the group receive funding to participate in the inquiry, but that ultimately it would be up to Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick to approve the money. Court action still active

The ruling said that, if approved, the group would have to sign a contribution agreement with the Privy Council Office, which is central bureaucracy in the federal government and provides administrative support to federal inquiries.

Suzan Fraser, the Toronto-based lawyer representing Families for Justice, said the Federal Court application will remain active until additional matters are settled with the inquiry.

"This is the first step, but it doesn’t fully enable our participation," said Fraser.

"We have yet to see what the recommendation for funding will look like and we will also need to receive the necessary contribution agreement to participate in the proceeding."

The families filed for a judicial review with the Federal Court last week aimed at ordering the inquiry to grant them standing. The court filing said the inquiry had ignored their application for standing and failed to respond to their requests for a ruling. As MMIWG convenes in Montreal, families of missing women travel from far and wide to tell their stories

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