Calgary

MMIWG inquiry hears testimony in Calgary from government staff

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding hearings in Calgary this week.

The truth-gathering process previously heard from more than 1,000 families

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding hearings in Calgary this week.

The first phase of the truth-gathering process collected testimonies from more than 1,000 families. This next part focuses on government services and agencies, with testimonies from public staff and non-profit sector employees.

The hearings are being held at the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire at 255 Barclay Parade S.W., and are open to the public.

Indigenous activist Michelle Robinson welcomes the inquiry but worries the format of the five-day hearings may limit the quality of the testimonies and may alienate some local people.

"There might be some families that are a little hurt that, 'You're in Calgary and I'm not getting an opportunity to testify,' not realizing that this was more the outreach for those who are in the field, the professional field," she said.

According to the published schedule, each witness will testify, with counsel present, in front of Chief Commissioner Marion Buller and commissioners Michèle Audette, Brian Eyolfson and Qajaq Robinson.

Witnesses

The hearings begin with witnesses about the delivery of victims services to Indigenous people.

John Phelps, the Yukon region chief federal prosecutor, will speak first, followed by Leanne Gardiner, Northwest Territories' justice department community justice and policing division director.

Later on Monday, the commission will hear from Naomi Giff-MacKinnon, a Canadian justice department policy analyst, and Betty Ann Pottfuff with the Saskatchewan government's justice department.

After witness cross-examination on Tuesday, a new set of witnesses will appear Wednesday to discuss health services:

  • Dr. Valerie Gideon, the senior assistant deputy minister for First Nations and Inuit Health with Health Canada.
  • Jackie Anderson of the community support network, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg.
  • Christine Duhaime of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.

Thursday's witnesses come from the shelter, safe house and transitional housing sector:

  • Nakuset of Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.
  • Josie Nepinak of Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society in Alberta.
  • Renée-Claude Carrier of Yukon Women's Transition Shelter and Kaushee's Place.
  • Sandra Montour of Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario.

The Calgary-based inquiry ends on Friday with cross-examinations of Thursday's witnesses.

Laurie Odjick holds a sign with photo of her missing daughter, Maisy, who went missing along with Shannon Alexander in 2008 at age 16. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Robinson said she will be watching the cross-examinations closely.

"Even when it comes to service providers, it'll be interesting to see the testimony and then the rebuttal, the attempt to discredit whatever was being said," she said. "That's incredibly problematic and not helping.

"We have so many reports already on recommendations we need to implement for the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the municipal levels, and they're not being implemented already."

'We need to do this together'

The overall inquiry is scheduled to wrap up in November but the commission has requested a two-year extension to finish in December 2020.

As the hearings continue, Indigenous activist Lowa Beebe said she is keeping in mind that women and children are going missing every day. 

"We need to take what we can from the inquiry and the commission and those types of things that are going on," she said. "We need to know how we're going to do things better in the future, and it's coming together.

"And we need to do this together."


Corrections

  • Dr. Valerie Gideon is the senior assistant deputy minister for First Nations and Inuit Health with Health Canada, not the assistant director as first reported.
    May 30, 2018 12:12 PM MT

With files from Terri Trembath

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