Roughly 1,200 indigenous women and girls have died or gone missing in Canada over the past three decades — a figure that the United Nations says makes them five times more likely to die of violent circumstances than non-indigenous Canadian women.
Marion Buller, the first female First Nations judge in British Columbia, will lead the independent panel conducting the inquiry, the CBC reports. It's expected to be completed at the end of 2018.
"The spirits of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls will be close in our hearts and in our minds as we do our work," she said. "The families' and the survivors' losses, pain, strength, and courage will inspire our work."
In a press conference Wednesday, Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett thanked the families who have come forward with their stories for leading the calls for justice.
"It's because of these courageous women and families, who knew something was very wrong, that we are here today," Bennett said. "They knew an inquiry was needed to achieve justice and healing and to put an end to this ongoing terrible tragedy."
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, called the inquiry an "opportunity and hope to end that violence in our communities."
“Indigenous lives matter," she said, according to The Toronto Star. "Everybody deserves justice.”