Letter from MMIWG inquiry points finger at Privy Council for delays in aftercare cash
CBC News obtained letter sent to those who have not received funding after testifying at inquiry
The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls says the reason some families and survivors have not received aftercare is because of funding delays from the Privy Council Office.
CBC News obtained a copy of a letter sent to people who have not received followup care after testifying at the inquiry.
The letter, dated May 1 and signed by Terrellyn Fearn, the inquiry's director of community engagement and support services, calls the situation "unacceptable," and says the inquiry is working with the PCO to resolve the delay.
"We were phoning people; no one is calling us back — emails, messages, nothing," said Joan Winning, who shared her late niece's story at the Winnipeg hearing last October.
"This is causing more stress. They promised us aftercare and we are not getting anything."
Winning's niece Nicole Daniels was 16 years old when she was found face-down in the snow behind a car rental agency in east Winnipeg in 2009.
Her death was ruled not suspicious, but her family thinks she was killed. They said she got into a truck with an older man, who they believe gave her alcohol and took advantage of her before leaving her in the cold.
Winnipeg police confirm officers interviewed the man she was last with the night before her body was found and that there was no evidence of a sexual assault or that the man had supplied her with any alcohol.
"[Aftercare] is really important because as far as I'm concerned we went through a lot, we were traumatized just like every other family," said Winning.
Winning said she had lined up a shake tent ceremony in her home community of Sagkeeng with an elder in March. She had to cancel it because she hadn't received her aftercare money.
Each person who testifies is entitled to $3,500 for their healing. According to the national inquiry's website, 1,273 families and survivors have testified.
Winning said she will use her money to give the elder an honorarium for her time and pay for travel and supplies, like tobacco and cloth for the ceremony.
"They wanted her to send them an invoice and I said ... well she is an elder, she's not a business," said Winning. "They clearly don't know what they're doing, what a ceremony is about."
The letter also stated the Privy Council Office further complicated access to aftercare by questioning if the national inquiry had the authority to deliver aftercare support.
"This stalled our process to engage with families and survivors as funding was halted until the issue could be cleared up with Crown-Indigenous Relations," Fearn wrote in the letter.
Fearn said some temporary solutions were found such as having third parties cover initial aftercare costs.
She said the PCO is now four weeks away from giving approval for aftercare plans already in the works, with funding released five to 10 days after that.
"However, the next challenge ahead of us is that we still don't have a clearly established approval timeline from the submission of the aftercare plan," she wrote.
CBC News requested an interview with Fearn, but was asked to send a list of questions because staff are focused on an upcoming hearing next week in Quebec on a human rights framework. The questions have not yet been answered, despite multiple attempts.
"I just hope it's not another tactic to spoil, to get people off their backs," said Winning. "It's one thing after another. They have reasons for everything, but they can't come up with the aftercare."
Winning and her family have another shake tent ceremony scheduled for the end of May. She said she has little hope her funding will come through in time and expects she will have to cancel again.
In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the PCO said they have been working "collaboratively" with the inquiry to enhance aftercare supports.
"The granting of aftercare is a shared responsibility between the commission and the Privy Council Office and there are processes in place for the timely recommendation and approval of funding."