The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls lost its fourth staffer this week, CBC News has learned.
Chantale Courcy was director of operations until Monday. Director of communications Bernée Bolton confirmed that Courcy is the latest person to leave the inquiry commission.
"I can confirm that the former Director of Operations, who was a federal public servant her whole life before joining the National Inquiry, has accepted a promotion within the Federal Government as of Monday, June 12," Bolton stated in an email to CBC News.
Courcy's departure comes on the heels of news that another staff member has resigned. Tanya Kappo's name was removed from the inquiry's website earlier this week. She has resigned effective Thursday.
"It is concerning because families are having real struggles with the issues of trust in this process," said Melanie Omeniho, president of Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak, also known as Women of the Métis Nation.
Some family members are feeling the weight of all the shuffling.
"I'm very concerned as to why they're resigning. It makes me wonder why this is even happening," said Lorelei Williams.
DNA belonging to her cousin, Tanya Holyk, was found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm. Williams's aunt, Belinda Williams, has been missing for 40 years.
"Tanya is someone I trust in the inquiry," Williams said of Kappo.
Speaking to reporters Thursday morning in Ottawa, federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett thanked Kappo for her work.
- Missing and murdered inquiry wraps emotional 1st hearings in Whitehorse
- As more families share, themes, patterns emerging in 1st MMIWG public hearings
"People have to make decisions based on their family and their career," Bennett said.
"I'm just very pleased that she was there to be able to get us through what was a hugely successful series of hearings in Whitehorse and I just think that, as the families have said, we need to keep going on and be able to not let the families down at this point, and everybody's coming together on this."
Before she resigned in June, Sue Montgomery was the inquiry's second director of communications.
"I think it's a sign that perhaps there are some internal issues that need fixing, including coming up with a detailed plan, before hearings can continue," Montgomery told CBC News.
'We need to pull this out of the fire'
On Thursday afternoon, half a dozen national Indigenous organizations are meeting with four of the inquiry's commissioners in an effort to resolve some of the problems that may be putting a dent in the process.
Representatives with The Assembly of First Nations, The National Women's Association of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, The Congress of Aboriginal People and Women of the Métis Nation are confirmed to meet with chief commissioner Marion Buller along with Brian Eyolfson, Marilyn Poitras and Qajaq Robinson starting at 1 p.m. ET in Ottawa.
"Very little has actually been accomplished from what we can see, and for us to be losing significant directors and people who are a part of operating this process is a really concerning red flag for us, " Omeniho said.
"We need to find a way to pull this out of the fire and get it moving forward, and that is the reason why we are meeting."
Concerns with secrecy
Omeniho said the commission is still struggling with communication, even though it has vowed to change the situation with new communication directors.
"We are very concerned about secrecy — this was supposed to be a transparent and accountable process," she said.
Indigenous organizations are still unaware of a communications strategy and how the inquiry is reaching out to inform and engage families, Omeniho said.
"Some of the responses have been they are waiting for families to contact them," she said.
"Well, these are people with extreme amounts of post-traumatic stress. They are not going to reach out, they have lots of trust issues, and it's our job to reach out and engage them."
Wiliams said she still has hope in the inquiry's success, regardless of all the stumbles along the way.
"We need this inquiry to be successful because our Indigenous women and girls' lives depend on this," she said.