MMIWG inquiry prepares for first Nunavut community visit

“There are many ways to participate”


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 Indigenous Women plans to travel to Rankin Inlet next week for its first community visit in Inuit Nunangat.

Earlier this summer, the federal inquiry announced a nine-community tour, the last stop scheduled for the Nunavut community in mid-December.

To help the inquiry prepare for the hearing, the inquiry’s team of Inuit staff will spend three days in the Kivalliq community to reach out to families and survivors who may choose to give testimony.

The community visit, set for Aug. 15 to Aug. 17, is a chance for families and survivors to register to take part in the hearing when it returns to Rankin Inlet Dec. 11.

“It’s important to note families, survivors and loved ones have choices in how to share, in a comfortable and a safe way,” the inquiry said in an information sheet sent out to Rankin Inlet residents.

“There are many ways to participate, including before a commissioner in a private and confidential hearing without any cameras present.”

Though Inuit women’s groups have been critical of the inquiry’s approach, the commission has worked to bring in a team of Inuit lawyers and community workers to help better accommodate its Inuit communities.

Elisapee Sheutiapik, chair of Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women council, said she is “impressed” at the work inquiry staff have done in recent months, despite resignations and calls to redesign the inquiry.

“They have an Inuit team in place and they have an idea of where they’re going,” Sheutiapik said.

“I know some Inuit are still hesitant [to trust] some institutions. Most importantly, the inquiry has been welcomed and they’re waiting to be invited.”

A community member in Rankin Inlet, Laura MacKenzie, initiated the invite with the support of Qulliit and the local hamlet.

MacKenzie wants the inquiry to acknowledge the loss of her aunt, Betsy Kalaserk, originally from Rankin Inlet, who died in Yellowknife in 2003. The 29-year-old woman’s husband was later convicted of criminal negligence causing her death.

The hearing in Rankin Inlet may well trigger other families or other communities to take part in the inquiry, Sheutiapik said, noting this upcoming hearing will really “set a feel” for other Nunavummiut.

No other Inuit communities have been scheduled for a hearing just yet but Sheutiapik expects the inquiry to get to all three Nunavut regions by the end of its mandate in 2018.

Indigenous women account for 16 per cent of all women murdered in Canada between1980 and 2012, through they make up just four per cent of Canadian women. The inquiry was developed as a way to develop a national response to the unique threats of safety and vulnerability they face.

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

As part of its process, the inquiry will have the ability to summon witnesses to testify including police, government and others.

The inquiry can’t however re-investigate cases or find legal fault. If evidence is uncovered, commissioners can make recommendations to police or to an auditor general to look into.

Family members or survivors from Rankin Inlet or other communities can also register to participate in the inquiry by contacting its Inuit community liaison officers Looee Okalik at (613) 762-9983 or by email at or Alana Boileau at (514) 242-9915 or

The inquiry offers toll-free support in English, French and Inuktitut, 24 hours a day, at 1-844-413-6649.

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