'Make or break moment:' Inuit demand full inclusion in MMIW inquiry

Two national Inuit organizations have issued reports calling on the federal government to ensure the upcoming inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls fully includes Inuit.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada send recommendations to feds

Leevee Naglingniq, whose cousin Jennifer Naglingniq was murdered in Iqaluit in 2002, says she's glad Inuit organizations are putting forward suggestions that will help bring forward stories like her family's at the MMIW inquiry. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Two national Inuit organizations have issued reports calling on the federal government to ensure the upcoming inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls fully includes Inuit.

Both Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada have been meeting with affected Inuit families across Canada in advance of the inquiry. After listening to the stories shared by families, each organization has compiled a report sent to the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs outlining recommendations on how to shape the inquiry and what to expect as outcomes from the process.

Jennifer Naglingniq was only 13 when she was brutally murdered in Iqaluit in 2002. (submitted by Leevee Naglingniq)
Their hope is to remove any barriers that may prevent full Inuit participation in the inquiry.

"It's really hard," said Iqaluit's Leevee Naglingniq, choking back tears. "It's not something I talk about all the time."

Leevee Naglingniq lost her cousin Jennifer Naglingniq 14 years ago. Jennifer was only 13 when she was brutally murdered by a friend. A few years later her mother, Nicotye Naglingniq, killed herself.

"I'm really sad that she's gone and when she died, a piece of Nico died as well. By him murdering her, he took two lives, not just one." 

Jennifer Naglingniq's killer was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and in 2015 he took his own life in prison.

Leevee Naglingniq says she's glad Inuit organizations are putting forward suggestions that will help bring forward stories like her family's at the inquiry.

"Clearly there's a lot of emotions and thoughts that haven't been said and I think they should be brought up because it's a really tough thing to go through."

Dealing with 'unresolved grief'

Pauktuutit president Rebecca Kudloo said the inquiry needs to help families affected by intergenerational trauma in order to break the cycle of violence against women and girls.

'We are constantly fighting for services for Inuit,' says Pauktuutit's president Rebecca Kudloo. (Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada)
"Unresolved grief and unresolved effects of residential schools and child sexual abuse, those are things that need to be dealt with before we can move forward," she said.

The need for culturally appropriate support services delivered by staff who speak local languages and dialects is stressed in Pauktuutit's report.

"We are constantly fighting for services for Inuit," she said.   

"We want counselling available before, during and after the inquiry."

Another recommendation in Pauktuutit's report is for the creation of an advisory committee of family representatives to oversee the process.

"We don't want to be lost in the mix. A lot of times we're lumped in with First Nations and we constantly have to tell the government that up North is different."

'A tool for reconciliation'

ITK worked in partnership with Tungasuvvingat Inuit to hold consultations across Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region as well as in Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and St. John's, where large Inuit populations live.

Their report highlights the "strong belief among Inuit that Inuit women and girls are seen by government agents and agencies as less valuable than non-Inuit women and girls."

ITK President Natan Obed said the inquiry should be used as a tool for reconciliation.  

'The only way that we’re going to get sincerity and complete buy-in from Inuit to tell their very painful stories is if they feel comfortable in the process,' says ITK president Natan Obed. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

"The only way that we're going to get sincerity and complete buy-in from Inuit to tell their very painful stories is if they feel comfortable in the process, and they feel like they can relate to those who are in charge of running the inquiry," he said.

ITK, like Pauktuutit, is calling for an Inuk commissioner to oversee this inquiry.

"Having somebody that can be sympathetic and respected by Inuit in a central role to ensure the inquiry happens respectfully for Inuit will be the make or break moment for us," Obed said.

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.