British Columbia

MMIWG manager resigns over hearing's short time frame

Another staffer from the national inquiry looking into missing and murdered Indigenous woman and girls has resigned.

Inquiry says 'employees choose to join and, at times, move on for a variety of reasons'

Melodie Casella, right, is the latest to resign from the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She and her mother, Gertie Pierre, left, both testified about the murder of their relative, Cheryl Ann Joe. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Another staffer from the national inquiry looking into missing and murdered Indigenous woman and girls has resigned.

Melodie Casella was the manager of health at the commission. She is also a family member whose cousin, Cheryl Ann Joe, was brutally murdered on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. 

Casella said the federal government's limited extension to the length of the national inquiry was a leading reason why she quit. 

"I feel like the lack of the extension has posed great harm to families such as my family, Casella said. 

She said the tight timeframe will not allow the inquiry to get to the root causes.

The inquiry was seeking an additional two years. Instead, in early June, it was granted an extension to April 30, 2019, for writing its final report and an additional two months to wind down its operations by June 30, 2019.

Casella's resignation is the latest bump in the road faced by the commission. Dozens of others have also resigned or been fired since it started in 2016.

A spokesperson for the national inquiry would not comment specifically on Casella's resignation.

"As with all organizations, staffing does not remain constant and throughout the National Inquiry's mandate employees choose to join and, at times, move on for a variety of reasons."

Difficult decision

Casella's submitted her resignation letter on July 4 and her last day was July 6. She says it was a difficult decision.

"It really played on my heartstrings and it's been really hard to not phone and say 'I want to go back now,'" Casella said.

She was told while working at the inquiry no outside work could be done, as employees needed to be fully dedicated to the commission. 

She says not being allowed to do advocacy work at the organization called Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, so important to her, was another reason for leaving. 

"It brought a voice to rural family members that didn't seem to exist in [the national inquiry] — the issues they talked about were more for the urban setting," Casella said. 

Payroll issues

Casella was initially hired on as a case support worker in July 2017. In October of 2017, she was promoted to the role of manager of health. But she says her wages never changed and she has yet to receive any back pay. 

She is still trying to get the payment issues resolved. 

"I'm really frustrated with this whole mess of my finances and being in the inquiry," said Casella.

A spokesperson for the national inquiry said it does not comment on human resource issues and pointed CBC to links that explain the federal government payroll system for employees, including an explanation for payment in arrears and the Phoenix Pay system. 

About the Author

Angela Sterritt

CBC Reporter

Angela Sterritt is a journalist from the Gitxsan Nation. Sterritt's news and current affairs pieces are featured on national and local CBC platforms. Her CBC column 'Reconcile This' tackles the tensions between Indigenous people and institutions in B.C.