North

After slow start to its visit, MMIWG hears from families in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

The staff of the national inquiry for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is leaving Rankin Inlet Friday, until December 11, when they’ll return for the public hearing.

Staff will continue to be available to victims' families over the phone until December

Vicky Laforge, from Nipissing First Nation, in northern Ontario, is one of the health support coordinators visiting Rankin Inlet with MMIWG. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

After a slow start to the logistics visit to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, MMIWG staff are starting to hear from affected families.

The staff of the national inquiry for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is leaving Rankin Inlet Friday, until December 11, when they'll return for the public hearing.

MMIWG staff had a closed-door meeting with the first family in the area to come forward on Thursday morning and say they are expecting phone calls from Inuit outside of the community.

The visit's purpose was to make staff available to people in the area, but also to lay the administrative groundwork for the winter hearing. They worked with local organizations to determine where the public hearings will be held and where attendees can be housed.

Lillian Aglukark-Lundrigan, legal counsel for the inquiry, reached out to families over the radio, and posters were put up around the community.

She says that families and close friends can share their experiences in any form including poems, music or a written letter. They can also choose to keep their testimony off-the-record. 

Aglukark-Lundrigan says staff will continue to be available over the phone after they leave the community.

Staff say from their experience in other places, they expected the initial days of their visit to be slow, while the community learned about the national inquiry and its purpose.

Support through the process

Vicky Laforge, from Nipissing First Nation, in northern Ontario, is one of the health support coordinators visiting Rankin Inlet with MMIWG. She lost both of her parents to domestic violence. 

David Ningeongan, president of the Kivalliq Inuit Association says he would have liked to see the MMIWG staff in the community earlier, but he says he’s glad they’re there now. (Jordan Konek/CBC)
"We understand how hard it is to come forward, within my own family I would have relatives, who didn't want me speaking out... because they felt it was private, that it was so traumatic, but I still did it anyways. I feel stronger for it," she said. 

She says group therapy sessions helped her and her job with the inquiry is helping families get the support they need.

"This process isn't only about writing a report, it's also about healing," Laforge said.

Hoping for healing 

David Ningeongan, president of the Kivalliq Inuit Association, says he remembers when the federal government cut funding to the healing foundation in the community.

"That caused more trauma I think in the long run, for people trying to heal from past experiences," Ningeongan said.   

"I am hoping after these hearings, that we'll have plans in place to allow for proper healing between families that have been impacted by trauma."

While he would have liked to see the MMIWG staff in the community earlier, he says he's glad they're there now, and says the Kivalliq Inuit Association is encouraging people to participate in the inquiry as part of their healing process.

Inuit coming from communities outside Rankin Inlet to testify can have their travel needs paid for by the inquiry.

With files from Jordan Konek

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