Lighting of ceremonial qulliq marks opening of MMIWG inquiry in Yellowknife

The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls starts Monday in Yellowknife. Here's what the public can expect to happen as it unfolds.

Public hearings scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday; community gatherings scheduled for the evenings

Rassi Nashalik lights the sacred qulliq to mark the opening of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Yellowknife in January 2018. (Claudiane Samson/CBC)

Families from across the N.W.T. will gather in Yellowknife this week to give testimony to the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

An opening ceremony is scheduled for Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. Public hearings start Tuesday, and run through Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. at the Chateau Nova hotel in Yellowknife. 

A team of victim services workers will be on site during the hearings to provide emotional support to those who need it, says Marie Speakman, a family support worker with the Native Women's Association of the NWT.
Members of the public gather at the opening ceremony of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Yellowknife. ( Claudiane Samson/CBC)

Each day after the hearings, there will be theme nights at the Explorer Hotel to give participants and the public a chance to wind down.

According to Speakman, Tuesday will be Dene night with handgames and a drum dance, Wednesday will be Inuit night with a fashion show and throatsinging. Thursday will be a Métis night, including jigging and square dancing.

"It will be a fun night to end it in a healing way with laughter," said Speakman.
A standing ovation was given to the Native Women's Association of the NWT for their beaded heart tapestry at the opening ceremonies of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Yellowknife. (Claudiane Samson/CBC)

The Explorer Hotel events start each evening at 6 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearings and events.​

Families who didn't pre-register can still come and give their statements privately to a hearing representative from Tuesday to Thursday. 

Qulliq lighting at the opening ceremony

The opening ceremony Monday will include the "lighting of the sacred qulliq," a traditional Inuit soapstone lamp. During the inquiry, the qulliq represents the strength and tenderness of Inuit women, according to the inquiry website.

After the qulliq is lighted, N.W.T. leaders and inquiry commissioners will give remarks followed by a community dinner.

As well, the Native Women's Association of the NWT will unveil its collection of beaded hearts, made by people across the territory.

An opening ceremony for the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Yellowknife took place Monday afternoon. (Claudiane Samson/CBC)

"We're hoping people will come," said Speakman.

"The beaded hearts show how many people care, how many people are thinking about the missing and murdered aboriginal women, and at the end of the day, it's about the families — that they're not forgotten."

Speakman said there are "lots" of beaded hearts in the collection — she wasn't able to count them all.

Inquiry expected to release report in November

The inquiry's commissioners are expected to use information gathered at hearings across Canada to identify why Indigenous women and girls are five times more likely to die of violence than other Canadian women.

A sample of the hearts submitted to the Native Women's Association of the NWT. A collection of beaded hearts will be unveiled Monday evening during the opening ceremonies of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Yellowknife. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

The inquiry will release a report that investigates the causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. It will also make recommendations to remove the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls, as well as recommendations for ways to honour victims of violence. The report is expected to be released before Nov. 1.

Follow CBC's coverage of the inquiry all week on CBCNorth.