British Columbia

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls announces fall hearings

The first of nine hearings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will start the week of Sept. 10 in Thunder Bay, Ont., with more dates in smaller communities expected in 2018.

First of 9 hearings to begin week of Sept. 10 in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Marion Buller announced the fall dates for hearings in nine cities. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls announced plans to conduct hearings across the country later this fall.

The announcement, made from Vancouver, details a schedule for the inquiry, which has been plagued by controversy since it was announced in August last year.

Nine hearings have been scheduled in the following cities:

  • Sept. 10 — Thunder Bay, Ont.
  • Sept. 25 — Smithers, B.C.
  • Oct. 16 — Winnipeg.
  • Oct. 23 — Saskatoon.
  • Oct. 30 — Halifax.
  • Nov. 6 — Edmonton.
  • Nov. 13 — Yellowknife.
  • Nov. 27 — Maliotenam, Que.
  • Dec. 4 — Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said this is the first set of dates being announced, with more to come in 2018 that will include smaller and more remote communities.

Over the next two months, staff from the inquiry will visit each city to sort out logistics prior to the hearings.

The inquiry was formed to examine the systemic causes of violence directed against Indigenous women and girls in Canada and find some way to memorialize the missing and murdered victims — which some say could number as high as 4,000.

Its first public hearing took place in Whitehorse from May 30 to June 2, but further testimony was delayed.

The inquiry now plans advance community visits with a health and legal team to meet with and prepare the families and to seek advice from Elders in the community ahead of the hearings.

"We learned that from Whitehorse, that this groundwork is critical, not only to prepare ourselves, but the families," said Buller.

"I think primarily what I would have done differently is I would have slowed down, rather than push for time and push time limits."

The commissioner was asked about the resignation of five staffers from the inquiry, including executive director Michele Moreau.

She defended their decisions to leave, saying some left for "opportunities of a lifetime" and turnover is expected. She added she has no intentions of resigning.

Two hearings with Indigenous elders and experts on decolonization and human rights have also been planned for August and October.

Mistrust, calls for reform

Despite high hopes, the inquiry has had a rocky start and been met with distrust by family members and grassroots organizations.

Wally Oppal, B.C.'s former attorney general and commissioner of the province's own missing women inquiry, says the inquiry's problems don't surprise him.

"These are very difficult things to do," he said. "We went through similar challenges. When we started, many people were angry and people were picketing us. Justifiably so.

"You're dealing with people who have been victims of horrendous violence, people who have been ignored by authorities, been dealt with unfairly and haven't been heard."

Oppal said the commissioners have to be transparent with a definitive finish line to maintain the focus and mandate of the inquiry.

He also encouraged family members to give the inquiry another chance.

"Boycotts are not the answer. If you boycott it, you would be abandoning your cause. You have to be there and take part in it."

An interim report by the inquiry is expected in November. The final report is due at the end of 2018.

With files from The Early Edition