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MMIWG inquiry still fighting for access to RCMP files, weeks from closing ceremony

Indigenous

Lawyers for the inquiry are in Vancouver this week fighting for access to files on two cases it says are at the core of the inquiry's mandate to look into the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and to make recommendations for effective action.

The national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls is in federal court in Vancouver arguing for access to two RCMP files.(Peter Scobie/CBC)

With its final report just weeks away from being released, the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls is in federal court still fighting for access to two files from RCMP.

The inquiry has requested and subpoenaed police files from across the country during the course of its mandate so a specialized forensic team can review them and put forward findings and recommendations.

Lawyers for the inquiry are in Vancouver this week fighting for access to files on two cases it says are at the core of the inquiry's mandate to look into the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and to make recommendations for effective action.

In these two cases, "the facts are quite disturbing," Ravi Hira, a lawyer for the inquiry told the court on Monday, saying there are reported deficiencies in one of the cases.

One of the cases involves an Indigenous woman missing for decades and the other is a homicide.

"We're not here because these files are not relevant. They are relevant," he said.

A publication ban prevents CBC from reporting details about the cases.

Disagreement over how 'active' cases are

According to the RCMP, both cases are still under investigation. The inquiry legal team disputes that characterization.

"It cannot reasonably be said that either of these files is still under investigation," Hira told the court.

He added that even if they were still active cases, the court could still order the files be disclosed to the inquiry forensics team based on the public interest.

"It is not a situation where by giving it to the national inquiry, the public and in particular perpetrators will get information that they wouldn't be allowed to have and be able to scuttle the investigation," said Hira.

"This body is bound to protect the information within the files."

Hira also said the case files have been made available to other people over the years including retired police officers. Hira said, in that light, the decision to keep the files away from the inquiry seems unfair and unprincipled.

RCMP lawyers argue files not necessary to fulfil inquiry's mandate

Lawyers for the RCMP began their submissions on Tuesday outlining their chronology of events with respect to the files in question.

In court filings they've stated "there is no reason why these two files are necessary for the national inquiry to fulfil its mandate… given the number of RCMP investigative files and policy documents already produced."

The RCMP has resisted handing the files over to the inquiry by invoking a section of the Canada Evidence Act under a specific section related to objections of disclosing information to an outside party.

According to court filings from the RCMP, the force has handed over 119 "investigative" files to the inquiry — 23 of which are related to ongoing investigations.

Given the short amount of time left within the inquiry's mandate, the RCMP court filing states, "The usefulness of these two files is minimal at best."

During Monday's hearing Justice Richard Mosley asked how the inquiry team would have enough time to review the large case files if they were ordered to be turned over to the team. The inquiry is scheduled to deliver its final report to the federal government on June 3, in less than three weeks.

The inquiry team told the court it still wants to see these two files and said it's possible to include an addendum to the final report if necessary.

With files from Laura Lynch

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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