Kitchener-Waterloo

'Fundamental shift' needed at MMIW commission, advocate says

The continued delays experienced by families wanting to participate in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has created a lack of trust and is re-traumatizing those families, Six Nations advocate says.

Beverly Jacobs says delays and a lack of communication aren't helping families trust the commission

Bridget Tolley, whose mother Gladys was killed in 2001, is embraced after the announcement of the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. The federal government announced the terms of a long-awaited inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, saying it will need at least $13.8 million more for the study than was originally expected. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The continued delays experienced by families wanting to participate in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has created a lack of trust and is re-traumatizing those families, Beverly Jacobs, past president of the Native Women's Association of Canada and a lawyer in Six Nations of the Grand River near Brantford, Ont. says.

The MMIW commission recently announced that it wouldn't hear from more families until the fall.

On Friday, the inquiry's chief commissioner responded to a letter from numerous indigenous leaders and activists criticizing the commission's work thus far.

Beverly Jacobs, past president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and a lawyer in Six Nations of the Grand River, says delays at the MMIW commission is eroding trust of victims' families. (Beverly Jacobs/Twitter)

"We are deeply concerned with the continued lack of communication that is causing anxiety, frustration, confusion, and disappointment in this long-awaited process. We request that you, as the leader of this Inquiry, substantially rework your approach in order to regain trust and ensure that families are no longer feeling re-traumatized in this process," the letter stated.

Jacobs, who was among those who signed the letter, told The Morning Edition that families across the country are frustrated by the process.

"Families are continuing to feel that re-traumatization and that builds up walls and builds up a lack of trust," Jacobs said. 

Activists and community leaders are also frustrated because they want to help the commission. But, she says, they haven't been asked.

'Needs to change'

"They know that the process has to assist families and to ensure their well being," Jacobs said. "But it's not happening so far. It needs to change, there needs to be a fundamental shift for families to feel they can actually participate.

"They need to do that and quickly."

Jacobs said the big concern is that families don't feel supported, especially because of the trauma they're already struggling with.  

"How could you participate in a process where there's no trust?" she said.

Jacobs is also unsure whether the commission will come to Six Nations or the Brantford area, even though it's been requested by local officials.

"A process should have been designed so (the families) are completely embraced with love that there's no doubt and that there's a process to enable them to feel that," she said.

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