A frontline worker for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry says she was fired, without cause.

Melissa Carlick, who lives in Whitehorse, was the community liaison and health coordinator for Yukon, Alberta, the N.W.T., and parts of B.C.

She says she was fired on Nov. 7 during the Edmonton hearings. Two other staffers were also fired, CBC has learned

"At that time I was shocked," says Carlick.

She says she didn't have any indication that she was doing anything wrong.

Carlick says the executive director of the inquiry, Debbie Reid, called her into her office. Carlick's director was on the phone, there was a security person in the corner, and an elder from B.C. was in the room, she says.

"And they said I'm being let go, effective immediately," said Carlick.

"It was like a ball just dropped, they threw me under the bus. It was just like, 'you're going home, you're done.'"

A relief

Although she had a job title, Carlick says she never had a job description.

"I was a flight coordinator, to logistic coordinator, to trying to find elders, to trying to find a venue, to meeting with families, and connecting with the legal and health team," Carlick said.

After the shock wore off, she says she was relieved to be done with the inquiry. She says she was run ragged.

"It's very rushed, like they do hearing after hearing after hearing and more people are getting involved, but there's no follow-up and aftercare."

Carlick spoke with CBC after hearings in Smithers, B.C., at the end of September. At that time, she spoke positively about her role, saying that she thought the inquiry was doing a better job of respecting the witnesses coming forward to testify.

After the Smithers hearing, Carlick says she became drained and unhappy. She was still trying to do her best job, she says, but being fired — she now realizes — took a weight off her shoulders.

Her heart has been in the inquiry the entire time, she says, and she wants it to work.

Constant trigger

Carlick is the niece of Wendy Carlick, who was murdered in Whitehorse earlier this year. She was a cousin to Wendy's daughter, Angel Carlick, who was murdered in Whitehorse 10 years ago. Both murders are unsolved.

"We were directly affected by this as a family," she says. "I was probably triggered constantly [during the hearings] and I didn't have the support and acknowledgment of that."

Carlick mural - from above

A mural in Whitehorse of Angel Carlick and her mother Wendy Carlick. Both women's murders remain unsolved. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Carlick thinks that everyone involved in the inquiry has the same intent she does — they want it to work. However, she says directors and commissioners aren't acknowledging flaws in the inquiry because they don't want to look bad.

"Anyone who doesn't make them look good, they'll just dismiss." Carlick says.

"They're making it look like it was our fault, the three women who were fired," says Carlick. "Their tag is that our women and girls are sacred, you know, but then they just dehumanize and devalue us."

Along with the three recent firings, the inquiry has also seen the resignation of lawyer Karen Snowshoe. She says she resigned for "personal reasons," and won't leave her job with the inquiry until the end of the year so the transition is as smooth as possible.

CBC has contacted the national inquiry for comment, but has not had a response.

Carlick says she's trying to be respectful toward the inquiry, but wanted to speak up and give her side of the story, so people don't believe the commissioners when they say that everything is going well.

She says the commissioners and the inquiry staff are not always on the same page.

"They're way up there in the clouds," says Carlick, "and we're frontline workers, and there's never been that connection between the two. And there should be."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said that Karen Snowshoe said in an email that she resigned from the MMIWG inquiry in protest of the firings. In fact, Snowshoe did not write that and has since clarified that she resigned for her "own reasons."
    Nov 16, 2017 5:36 PM CT