MMIWG inquiry urges family members, survivors to register for truth gathering process before deadline

Family members and survivors who haven't had a chance to share their story with the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have less than two weeks left to register if they want to participate in the inquiry's truth gathering process.

Deadline to register to share testimony with the national inquiry is April 20

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller addresses the crowd at the opening ceremony of the MMIWG inquiry community hearings in Richmond, B.C., following a blanketing ceremony led by Chris Lewis (left) from the Squamish Nation. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Family members and survivors who haven't had a chance to share their story with the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have less than two weeks left to register if they want to participate in the inquiry's truth gathering process.

That deadline to register has been set for April 20.

"The stories of families and survivors are the heart and soul of the national inquiry, which is why we created an inclusive and supportive process to hear from as many voices as possible," said Chief Commissioner Marion Buller in a news release about the deadline last month.

"Every truth shared will guide the next important stages of the investigation and help to inform our recommendations for change."

The truth gathering process is only one of the components to the inquiry, which is currently working against a deadline of December 2018.

The two year extension that we're asking for, it's a small ask.- Gladys Radek

The hearings might continue, if the inquiry gets the two-year extension it requested from Ottawa last month. So far there is no news about whether that will be granted.

On Sunday, the inquiry wrapped up its last scheduled community hearings in Richmond, B.C. It was the largest of the hearings to date.

In making closing statements, commissioners and other speakers reiterated their support for extending the inquiry's timeline so that more people can be heard from and the final report can be more comprehensive.

"The two- year extension that we're asking for, it's a small ask," said Gladys Radek, a longtime advocate, survivor and aunt to Tamara Chipman who vanished along the Highway of Tears near Prince Rupert, B.C., in 2005.

Radek is also a member of the inquiry's National Family Advisory Circle.

"We know that there are hundreds more family members and survivors who have registered because they want to share their truths," said Buller.

Two women hold hands for a round dance at the MMIWG community hearings closing ceremony in Richmond, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

There are some who oppose an extension, for a host of reasons. For some, it's because they want to see concrete action straight away to stem the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

During her closing statements Commissioner Michèle Audette agreed, in part, saying that governments across the country should be taking action now.

"Canada ... you don't need to wait for the final report. You don't need to wait for the final report to implement so many recommendations," she said.

She added that there are thousands of recommendations that have been made over the past two decades related to the safety and wellness of Indigenous women and girls.

"So you have lots of choice. You don't have to wait for us."

Downtown Eastside statement gathering extended

During the five days of Metro Vancouver hearings, 128 survivors and family members told their stories and put forward recommendations to the commissioners in public and private sessions.

In addition, 69 family members and survivors sat down with statement gatherers at both the community hearings in Richmond and a temporary centre set up in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

The Saa-ust Centre is acting as both a space for sharing and also for health support, like trauma counselling and ceremonies with elders.

Statement gatherers were meant to wrap up their work at the centre by April 8, but have since extended the statement gathering process in the Downtown Eastside until April 13.

People who would like to share at the centre can register by phone, online or can drop in and register on a sign-up sheet.