Manitoba

MMIWG inquiry leaves Manitoba families wanting more

After 5 days of hearings in Winnipeg, families relieved but wish there had been more time

Jennifer Catcheway's family testifies on the final day of the National Inquiry 2:12

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After five days of hearings, the stories of at least 50 missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls were heard by the national inquiry in Winnipeg.

More than 80 survivors and families testified, including the family of Jennifer Catcheway, who's been missing for nine years.

"I feel a load of weight off of my shoulders," said Bernice Catcheway, the mother of Jennifer.

The family attended all five days. They were originally scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday, but their slot was changed Monday night after receiving a call from a commission lawyer. 

St. Johns MLA Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns) speaks to the inquiry with Willy and Bernice Catcheway, o

Manitoba member of the legislature Nahanni Fontaine speaks to the inquiry with Willy and Bernice Catcheway, on behalf of their missing daughter Jennifer (pictured). (CBC)

Bernice said she was offered a private session because her daughter's case is an active RCMP investigation, but she refused. 

"I was upset with that and I made it known," she said Friday, following her 2½-hour public testimony with commissioner Michele Audette.

"This is our inquiry, not theirs. They're getting paid $53 million. They can sit there and listen to the families and not rush them."

Not enough time was also a complaint of Sue Caribou, who is the aunt of Tanya Nepinak.

Susan Caribou

Sue Caribou has sat on the family advisory council since the inquiry began. She said more time was needed for families who speak. (CBC)

Caribou has sat on the family advisory council since the inquiry began. She said this week in Winnipeg was not what she was expecting.

"I think they need more time," she said. "I'm not saying to have a reset or anything like that. I think it should be here, maybe two weeks, not one week."

Caribou said the family advisory council will meet following this hearing, and that she would offer some advice.

"Please take your time with the families, because it affects their health, their sleepless nights," she said. "Please consider the families and not do this in a rush."

Caribou's niece went missing in 2011. Her body has not been found. Convicted serial killer Shawn Lamb was originally arrested for her death, but charges against him were stayed in 2013.

Caribou said she wasn't given enough time at the inquiry to fully explain the effect Nepinak's death has had on her entire family.

"They [inquiry] just told me last minute I am sharing in the circle," she said.

Caribou was one of the last to testify alongside two other families. She complained that the schedule changed frequently throughout the week.

On Thursday, a survivor burst into tears during her testimony, saying she felt like walking out because she felt rushed.

Inquiry staff said over the five days, 24 families showed up last-minute asking to testify. A spokes

Inquiry staff said that over the five days, 24 families showed up at the last minute asking to testify. A spokesperson said all were accommodated and set up with statement-gatherers, not a commissioner. (CBC)

Following that session, Audette, the commissioner, went behind closed doors for more than hour with a family who approached her asking for her time. 

Inquiry staff said that over the five days, 24 families showed up at the last minute asking to testify. A spokesperson said all were accommodated and set up with statement-gatherers, not a commissioner. 

The inquiry is heading to Membertou, N.S., at the end of October. The interim report is due Nov. 1.

A press conference with Audette and commissioner Brian Eyolfson was scheduled for Thursday, but was pushed back to Friday and eventually cancelled because of time constraints.

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