Manitoba MMIWG families say they want to see more support before they'll support inquiry extension
Manitoba MMIWG families say they have not received aftercare following their testimony in October
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has asked for a two-year extension, but a coalition representing MMIWG families in Manitoba says they need to see more support for families who have testified before they can support that request.
Sandra DeLaronde, who is co-chair of the MMIWG Coalition in Manitoba, said families who testified at the inquiry still have not received aftercare. She hopes that will change if the inquiry is granted the extension.
"That has left a deepening of the open trauma," said DeLaronde.
"It's unlike the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where people told their truth in terms of something that had occurred in their life, whereas this issue [is] something that's real, immediate and ongoing."
On Tuesday, the inquiry asked for an extension until Dec. 31, 2020, according to a news release.
Marion Buller, the inquiry's chief commissioner, said in the release that officials need more time "to do justice to our critically important mandate."
DeLaronde said big changes will be needed before the coalition can support the inquiry's request for extension.
"There should be a commissioner from Manitoba, at the very least, given that Manitoba is known as ground zero for MMIWG families and survivors," said DeLaronde.
"There needs to be representation and currently the commission does not represent the West — the Prairies in particular, and certainly not Manitoba."
In July, the coalition called for a hard reset of the inquiry, following the resignation of commissioner Marilyn Poitras.
In December, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North publicly asked chief commissioner Marion Buller to resign at the Assembly of First Nations special meeting in Ottawa.
North, who is currently in The Pas attending child welfare meetings, responded to the extension request via Twitter on Tuesday.
"I can't support an extension for the National Inquiry without seeing changes to the make up of the commission leadership. It's not too late to make [the] process more meaningful for #MMIW families/survivors," she tweeted.
On a conference call from Vancouver Tuesday, Buller said the inquiry has "always been open to informed, constructive criticism, and we have listened carefully to our critics as well."
Commissioner Michelle Audette, who was on the call from Quebec, added that structural changes are decided by the prime minister and federal government.
"Don't take me wrong, everybody is replaceable, but right now it is the four of us who are there and we want to reassure the … leadership right across Canada that we have the knowledge, the capacity, the passion to continue this important task," she said.
Audette will be the lone commissioner in Thompson on March 20 and 21 for a community hearing.
There is no timeline yet for when the inquiry's request will be approved or denied.
"In the coming weeks, I will be discussing this request with families, Indigenous partners, provincial and territorial counterparts and my Cabinet colleagues," Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett said in a statement Tuesday.