'Please give us closure': A family's emotional plea to the MMIWG Inquiry

Terry Ladue frequently choked back tears as he described how he and his four siblings were separated from their mother, into residential school and foster homes, and how she died soon after.

Terry and Shaun Ladue were kids when they lost their mother, and the impact on their family was 'devastating'

Shaun Ladue, right, and Edna Deerunner listen as Terry Ladue (left) speaks at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, on Thursday in Whitehorse. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The third and final day of hearings in Whitehorse for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls began Thursday with more heart-wrenching testimony — and a desperate plea to the commissioners.

"You want my trust, you've got to earn my trust. And if I see this fall apart, I'll never trust again," said Terry Ladue, a Kaska man from Ross River, Yukon. His family told the commission that their mother, Jane Dick Ladue, was murdered in 1970, when Terry Ladue was four years old.

Terry Ladue holds a eagle feather to his face after his emotional testimony. 'I don't know how to love. I was never taught that,' he told the inquiry commissioners. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

"I don't know why I came here, I don't know what to expect out of here," he told the inquiry commissioners.

Ladue frequently choked back tears as he described how he and his four siblings were separated at a young age and taken from their family, sent to residential school and foster homes. His mother's death happened a few years later.

Ladue said he grew up to suffer sexual abuse, drug addiction, and a lifetime of emotional trauma.

"I haven't talked about this for 52 years," he said. "The effect it's had on me is very simple — I don't know how to love. I was never taught that.

"I've got three beautiful boys out there, and I can't even tell them I love them because I don't even know what that means."

'The outcomes were devastating'

Ladue's younger brother, Shaun Ladue, also spoke and focussed on what happened to his family after his mother's death. He described how he was separated from his older siblings.

"The outcomes were devastating for us," he said.

"Collectively, we've experienced the following: mental health issues, alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness, limited education, family violence, fetal alcohol spectrum children, children in care, a sense of dislocation, criminal activity, shortened lifespan, suicidal ideation and attempts, jail and prison time, chronic illness, limited social connections, limited employment opportunities, sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, loss of tradition knowledge, loss of language, loss of culture, loss of history."

He told the commissioners his mother was beaten unconscious by a violent partner and never woke up, but said there are no records.

"There are no answers why her life was cut short," he said.

"What do I want the National Inquiry to know? That my mother's murder was the culmination of cultural genocide, residential school, and the 60s scoop. The impacts of her murder on her 5 children was overwhelming and tragic."

Shaun Ladue receives a hug after speaking about his mother. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The Ladues' testimony highlighted both the deep trauma that lingers in many Indigenous families, and the high hopes for the National Inquiry to offer some answers.

The inquiry's chief commissioner has already acknowledged that this week's hearings in Yukon won't be sufficient, and there will likely be more scheduled in the territory at a later date. Other public hearings for family members are scheduled elsewhere in the country, this fall. 

"The National Inquiry can't bring my mom back, or any of the other murdered women. But please give us closure to these devastating events that took place in our life," Shaun Ladue said, at the close of his statement.

Terry Ladue did not sound as hopeful as his brother.

"This inquiry? I don't know ... you guys are going to have to prove it to me. I hear words all the time. I don't want words anymore, I want action," he said. 

"Dealing with this today is letting go of something that I haven't let go of for 52 years, and that's the anger I have toward the government officials."

With files from Cheryl Kawaja