Manitoba

'They're hurting so bad': Winnipegger pitches tent downtown to support families waiting for MMIWG inquiry

As she pitched her tent in downtown Winnipeg, Kimberley Kostiuk said she's not sure how long she'll be sleeping there for.

Frustrations growing over delays, lack of information

Kimberley Kostiuk drums and sings after lighting a sacred fire and setting up camp in downtown Winnipeg to show solidarity for families with loved ones involved in the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry. (Aidan Geary/CBC)

As she pitched her tent in downtown Winnipeg, Kimberley Kostiuk said she's not sure how many nights she'll spend sleeping there. 

"As long as it takes," she said, while a handful of friends, family and supporters helped set up the makeshift campground in Memorial Park, across the street from the Manitoba Legislature.

Kostiuk is one of a small group of people camping out in the park in support of families involved in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and to try to speed up the process.

"It's awful," she said. "They're hurting so bad. To see them on [MMIW series] Taken and on other shows and documentaries, to see my friends crying because they want answers and they're waiting and waiting — we need this now. This is why I'm doing this."
Tawny Dunford, 9, holds a Mohawk warrior flag as her dad helps a group set up a campground in downtown Winnipeg to show solidarity for families involved in the missing and murdered Indigenous women inquiry. (Aidan Geary/CBC)

Since the commission's five-person panel was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last August, about 294 families have said they want to participate in the hearings. The commission has hearings with the families this month, but after that, won't hear from families until autumn.​

The inquiry has been criticized by families and some Indigenous groups who say there's a lack of information for participants.

"They're being shut out in the dark right now," Kostiuk said. "They want to speak. They want to talk. They want to tell their stories, but it's just been put off, put off, put off, and we need answers, like, right away."

Kostiuk's own daughter was killed in 2000 at age 16, and Kostiuk has been active in Winnipeg groups like Drag the Red and Bear Clan Patrol, which she said is set to come by the campground. She said she wants other families who have lost loved ones to know she and others at the camp are there for them.

"We know if we put up this camp we can bring more people to come and share their stories, and to not be afraid and think that they're alone," she said. 

"We're here, we're here 24 hours a day, if they want to come out and speak, you know, if they want to drum, sing, bring pictures."
The campground in downtown Winnipeg includes a sacred fire, lit on Friday evening. (Aidan Geary/CBC)

Meeting for families, survivors to discuss inquiry Saturday

Manitoba families and survivors are also being invited to a meeting at Winnipeg's Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre on Saturday to discuss the inquiry.

The event is being hosted by the Manitoba Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Coalition, an advocacy and support group formed in 2012.

A member of the coalition told CBC News the group didn't want to comment on the meeting until after speaking to families.

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