Manitoba

Manitobans Nahanni Fontaine, Bernadette Smith in Ottawa for 'historic' MMIW inquiry news

​Manitobans are in Ottawa Tuesday to hear details of a planned federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.

‘I'm not saying it's not going to solve my sister's case … it possibly could,’ Bernadette Smith says

Nahanni Fontaine, Manitoba’s special advisor on aboriginal women’s issues, flew to Ottawa early Tuesday morning for the announcement. (CBC)

Manitobans are in Ottawa Tuesday to hear details of a planned federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women.

Nahanni Fontaine, Manitoba's special advisor on aboriginal women's issues, flew out early Tuesday morning for the announcement.

"This is a real historical moment," she said. "We're really looking forward to seeing what the government has to say and what the government is proposing moving forward."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to launching the inquiry when he was elected in October and spoke at the Assembly of First Nations meeting Tuesday morning, laying out a plan to reset Canada's relationship with indigenous people.

When he reiterated his promise that there would be an inquiry and said details would be laid out in the afternoon, the audience at the AFN meeting erupted in applause.

Among them was Manitoban Bernadette Smith, one of the people behind the social media movement #OurPeople.

Smith's sister Claudette Osborne went missing from Winnipeg in July 2008.

"We're hoping this is something that will prevent other families from having to go through this," she said.

"I think it's going to give people a lot of hope, and I'm not saying it's not going to solve my sister's case or bring her home, but we don't know that. It possibly could, but it could also prevent others from having to go through the same thing."

Details of the pre-consultation phase of the inquiry are expected to be unveiled first.

Fontaine, whose job is to stay up to date on what's happening cross the country on aboriginal women's issues, said Manitoba has taken a lead in supporting families' requests for consultation, and she expects that work to be continued by the federal government inquiry.

"Today is a really good response and acknowledgment of families wanting to be consulted with, instead of just going ahead and mapping out a process and not having spoken to families," she said.

Despite the sense of hope Fontaine and Smith share, they both acknowledged it will be an emotional day for many families.

"This is such a hard and personal and critical issue. Of course there's always a little bit of trepidation, but I think the main piece is that for families, there's always hope, even in the midst of confusion and being overwhelmed — which a lot of the families are right now," said Fontaine.

Smith said when she heard the news the announcement would be made on Tuesday, she immediately booked a flight to be there.

"It's history in the making, and it's connected to these families. They've been living it every day," said Smith.

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