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The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will continue with Part II and III of the Truth Gathering process by hosting a Knowledge Keeper, Expert and Institutional Hearing on Criminal Justice System and its oversight and its accountability. Hearing in Quebec City from Sept 17-21 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. 0:00

Strip-searching female inmates in Canadian prisons amounts to "institutionalized violence against women," Kassandra Churcher, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), told the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) Wednesday.

The community-based organization works with women and girls inside the correctional system, a system Churcher described as "archaic and toxic."

Among the recommendations submitted to commissioners, Churcher called for an end to strip searches by correctional officers.

The majority of incarcerated Indigenous women are past victims of sexual abuse, she said.

Having to remove clothing and submit to "humiliating" practices like bending over and spreading their buttocks is experienced by some "as a form of sexual abuse." Kassandra Churcher, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, told MMIWG commissioners Wednesday that strip-searching female inmates is ‘institutionalized violence against women.’ (CBC) "The federal government’s actions retraumatize women on a regular basis," Churcher testified.

She said if female prisoners refuse to be strip-searched, they sometimes lose privileges, including the right to see their children.

Others will avoid applying for jobs or volunteer work within the prison in order to "not endure the trauma of strip searches," thereby losing out on opportunities. Policing, safety discussed

This is the third day of MMIWG hearings in Quebec City.

This leg of the inquiry is hearing from expert witnesses and covers themes that have surfaced during testimony from more than 1,200 families across the country.

On Monday, commissioners heard how the opioid crisis is overwhelming police services in northern Ontario.

The chief of Canada’s largest Indigenous police force, the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service (NAPS), said that chronic underfunding has endangered the 34 communities NAPS serves, particularly vulnerable women and girls.

On Tuesday, human rights advocates detailed how major resource development projects jeopardize the safety of girls and women. Connie Greyeyes, from the Bigstone Cree Nation in Fort St. John, B.C., said several of her friends are among Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women. (Julia Page/CBC) The fly-in, fly-out model brings to remote regions large numbers of transient workers with deep pockets, the commissioners heard. They drop into town to "blow off steam" and drive up the cost of living for locals.

The income gap between women and men in these communities also exacerbates inequalities, because women cannot afford to leave violent relationships, witnesses told the inquiry.

Commissioners will move on to Winnipeg, Man., and St-John’s, N.L., in October.

The federal government allowed a six-month extension for the inquiry, setting an April 30, 2019 deadline for the final report.

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