Yukon relatives of missing and murdered indigenous women said they felt encouraged after Monday's pre-inquiry consultation in Whitehorse.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is holding private meetings with family and loved ones of victims to discuss what they want to see in the national inquiry: how it should be shaped, who should be involved and how long it should last. Before Monday's meeting in Whitehorse, Bennett had visited Yellowknife and Thunder Bay.
Some of those who attended the Whitehorse session said they were surprised the federal minister took an entire day to listen to them.
"I'm so pleased. It's so respectful and inclusive and calm," said participant Joan Jack. "There's so many support people here, it's just really wonderful."
Lorraine Netro, who travelled from Old Crow, Yukon, called the meeting "history in the making." She said she'd waited years for an inquiry.
"To be here, and to sit and witness what has taken place today, is just touching and it's just very meaningful," she said.
Organizers said about 70 people from across the territory met with Bennett on Monday. Krista Reid of the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle called the turnout "incredible."
"We've had families arrive that have never come out before. We've had families inquire that have never engaged before," she said.
The Sixties Scoop, human trafficking
Some common themes have emerged at the pre-inquiry meetings held so far — among them, a desire to have indigenous women play a role in officiating the inquiry, and a recognition that the issues surrounding MMIW are too complex and that an inquiry will not necessarily satisfy everybody.
Bennett said some Yukon families spoke to her about the so-called Sixties Scoop — a period from the 1960s to the 1980s when aboriginal children were taken from their families and placed with mostly non-aboriginal adoptive families. Bennett said she also heard concerns in the Yukon about present-day human trafficking.
"People are worried, and we heard a little bit about that in Thunder Bay. People are worried that vulnerable people are being preyed upon," Bennett said.
Similar consultations will be held in every province and territory ahead of the inquiry that many hope will begin this summer. The next meetings are scheduled for Vancouver and Prince George, B.C.