MMIWG inquiry delays community visits until fall 2017

Commission hasn’t said if, or when, it will visit Inuit Nunangat


Inquiry commissioner Michèle Audette stands during a smudging ceremony ahead of a February press conference and update into the inquiry's progress. (CPAC IMAGE)

Inquiry commissioner Michèle Audette stands during a smudging ceremony ahead of a February press conference and update into the inquiry’s progress. (CPAC IMAGE)

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls has a new approach and a new timeline, but it remains unclear how and when Inuit families and organizations will take part.

The two-year, $53 million inquiry launched last September with plans to begin gathering testimony from families of victims this spring.

While the inquiry will host its first hearings later this month in Whitehorse, Yukon, its commissioners won’t hear from other Indigenous families until the fall, the inquiry’s spokeswoman, Bernée Bolton, said last week in an emailed statement.

The national inquiry no longer plans to hold regional advisory meetings either; those will be replaced by community visits.

A team made up of the inquiry’s health, research and legal teams will help facilitate those community visits, which are intended to lay the groundwork for its “Truth Gathering Process.”

But even with the inquiry’s first report scheduled for release in November 2017, no other dates or schedules have been confirmed yet.

It’s not clear if the inquiry intends to visit Inuit communities in the process, nor if Inuit organizations such as Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada will participate in the upcoming hearings in Whitehorse, which begin May 29.

Groups that wish to participate must apply for standing—a legally-recognized role which, if granted, comes with funding to cover expenses.

The inquiry has faced criticism from the start; from Inuit, for not appointing an Inuk commissioner, and from Indigenous groups across Canada who say the inquiry has been slow to move and poor in communicating its plans.

Nunavut-raised lawyer Qajaq Robinson was appointed as one of five commissioners leading the inquiry.

Their mandate is to examine and report on the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors.

The inquiry has made headway responding to concerns from Inuit groups, by hiring Inuit staff. Looee Okalik, who worked as a health project coordinator with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is now working in a community relations role with the inquiry, while Iqaluit lawyer Joseph Murdoch-Flowers has joined its legal team.

The commission has declined Nunatsiaq News’ repeated requests to interview Robinson or other inquiry staff.

In gathering testimony, commissioners aren’t working from a database, but rather inviting families to get in touch if they want to share their stories. So far, about 300 families have been identified to participate in the process.

Families and individuals who wish to get in touch can call toll-free 1-844-348-4119 or email with their name, contact information and location.

A national, toll-free crisis line is available to provide support to those who needs it, 24 hours a day, at 1-844-413-6649.

You can also visit the inquiry’s Inuktitut-language webpage here.

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