The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is looking to make some improvements by hiring a contractor to provide "strategic communications services."
Details are outlined in a tender notice that was posted to Public Works and Government Services Canada on Tuesday. According to the notice, the inquiry is looking for a contractor that will bring more people to the team to help with public relations, public affairs, crisis management, strategic guidance and social media outreach.
The NI planned to hire external Communicators for quite some time. The tender is finally public. View ad here: https://t.co/22g4VEln4M— @MMIWG
Currently, the inquiry has two in-house communications staff.
Since the inquiry officially began on Sept. 1, 2016, it has been criticized repeatedly for poor communications by families, grassroots organizers and groups like the Native Women's Association of Canada.
Chief Commissioner Marion Buller took responsibility for that criticism in May, ahead of the inquiry's first round of community hearings in Whitehorse.
Still, people continue to take issue with the inquiry team's communications.
"It was very confusing and very frustrating"
Marlene Jack traveled from Vancouver to Smithers, B.C., last week to testify about the disappearance of her sister Doreen at the inquiry's second round of community hearings. Doreen went missing from Prince George, along with her husband, Ronald, and their two sons, Russell and Ryan, in 1989. Their case has never been solved.
Jack said while she's happy she had the opportunity to participate in the inquiry and talk about her sister, there was a huge lack of communication about the process leading up to her testimony and it was hard to keep track of who she was supposed to contact when she had questions.
"It was very confusing and very frustrating," she said, adding she didn't get her flight details from the inquiry team until the afternoon before she was supposed to fly to Smithers.
"It was huge. I mean, I was stressing out and then the day before I found out I was leaving on the 7:30 a.m. flight."
Jack said once she arrived in Smithers, she had to phone someone to find out what hotel she was staying at and wasn't even given details about where the inquiry hearings were taking place.
She said looking back at her experience, she would have liked to have a full travel itinerary days in advance so she could have spent more time focusing on her testimony, instead of reaching out to multiple people about travel details.
"This is the national inquiry. We only have one shot at this," she said.
It's unclear if the new strategic communications staff, once hired, will be responsible for streamlining communications between the inquiry and families about things like travel. The inquiry team would not arrange an interview to discuss the tender notice.
In an emailed statement, interim executive director Aideen Nabigon stated she's confident in the skills of the current communications staff but more resources are needed, "so that we can continue to provide information to families, survivors, organizations and the public."
The statement went on to say:
"The tender you are referring to is one of the solutions that allows us to move forward in a good way. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls continues to adapt and adjust the overall Truth Gathering Process based on feedback from families, survivors, advocates, grassroots and National Indigenous Organizations."
The tender notice will be active on the Public Works and Government Services Canada website until Oct. 18.
The inquiry will hold its next round of community hearings starting Oct. 16 in Winnipeg.