Indigenous families in Saskatchewan begin testifying as MMIWG hearings starts
'This is not just an Indigenous issue. This is a national challenge that faces all of us,' commissioner says
In what promises to be an emotional three days in Saskatoon, testimony at the federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is underway, following opening remarks from lead commissioner Marion Buller.
"It's no secret. This work is not easy. While we see pain … we see hope," Buller said. "Let's all listen to the truths with open hearts and open minds."
Buller, originally from Saskatchewan, began today's hearing by acknowledging that it is happening on Treaty 6 territory and the home of the Métis. She also called to people outside the hearing and across the country to pay close attention to the work of the commission.
"This is not just an Indigenous issue," Buller said. "This is a national challenge that faces all of us."
Some Indigenous families in Saskatchewan have waited years for this day to come.
They say the country will finally hear the story of their mothers, sisters and daughters.
The hearings are happening at the Sheraton Cavalier hotel.
"As we know, there have been hiccups and much controversy, but I'm positive, I'm excited to move forward," said Myrna Laplante, one of the founders of the group Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik (Women Walking Together).
Her aunt has been missing for more than a decade. Laplante said it's been an intense few months as she and others prepared to tell their stories.
Laplante said it's important for the public to learn the scope of the issue, but it's also valuable for families like hers.
"We don't know if justice will ever be served in conjunction with her disappearance," Laplante said.
"This may be the only time that we will have to tell Canada, to tell the public about auntie and what happened and how it affected us, and how it will continue to affect us for years to come."
There will also be rooms for families to testify privately. Health supports and elders will be on site.