AFN begins groundwork to ensure success of MMIW inquiry
Missing and murdered victims' families share ideas at Enoch Cree Nation prior to national inquiry
Ever since her sister was killed in 1983, Marilyn Buffalo has been fighting for a national investigation into missing and murdered indigenous women.
Now the inquiry is going ahead, she wants to make sure it's done right.
"It's been a long road and a lot of prayers," said Buffalo.
On Thursday, Buffalo was part of a meeting at Enoch Cree Nation, west of Edmonton, that included family members of victims from across the country.
They were brought together by the Assembly of First Nations for a pre-inquiry forum, the only one of its kind for the AFN in the country.
The organization is preparing its own report to give guidance to the federal government in advance of the national inquiry.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered the inquiry, which will examine the circumstances behind the deaths or disappearance of more than a thousand women between 1980 and 2012 identified in an RCMP report.
Buffalo said she's keen to be involved after waiting for so long.
About 60 people attended the meeting Thursday to discuss the scope of the inquiry and what issues it should tackle.
The regional chief for British Columbia, Shane Gottfriedson, is responsible for the file for missing and murdered indigenous women for the AFN.
"I think the police need to be involved in how the inquiry is going to be rolling out," he said. "I think the idea of who the commissioners are going to be, but most of all that the families stories will be heard and that the goal is to end violence against women."
Health support workers were in the conference room Thursday to comfort people who again were talking about their lost loved ones.
"It's important to do things the proper way and really show compassion and care for the families and all the support they need to be able to go through this process even, because it's very, very sensitive," said Therese Villeneuve, chair of the AFN women's council.
Making sure the victims' families are treated with respect when the inquiry begins is paramount for the AFN, said Tony Alexis, Grand Chief for Treaty Six in Alberta.
"We want to make sure they're going to be heard and the environments they're walking into are going to be safe environments and the stories and suggestions they're going to share are going to be validated," he said.
The AFN is aiming to put together a pre-inquiry report to present to the federal government by the middle of the month.
Buffalo is looking forward to seeing some concrete recommendations to improve the lives of indigenous people when the national inquiry does it's work.
"My hope for this inquiry is that it will create hope for future generations and that there will be action pieces there that every Canadian can adopt," she said.