North

Inuit women's group frustrated by lack of communication on MMIW inquiry

Almost two months since the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls began its work, the national Inuit women’s group says it’s had little communication with the commission.

‘We haven't heard anything,’ says Pauktuutit president

Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook, who was found dead in the Rideau River in Ottawa in September, was among the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls mourned on Parliament Hill at a rally earlier this month. (Chloé Fedio/CBC News)

Almost two months since the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls began its work, the national Inuit women's group says it's had little communication with the commission.

"We're frustrated," says Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit.

"We don't even have phone numbers to contact them. There's no connection."

Kudloo says her organization had not heard a word about the timeline or the work of the inquiry since August when the names of the commissioners were announced.

Finally today, Pauktuutit staff told CBC that Chantel Courcy, the interim executive director of the national inquiry, held a last-minute phone conference with all the national Indigenous organizations informing them that the commission has been swamped with administrative tasks and promising more regular updates in the future.​

The inquiry officially started its work on Sept. 1, and is expected to last more than two years.

Kudloo says a great deal of preparation is needed in the North to ready affected families to participate meaningfully in the inquiry.

"People look to us to provide them information about the inquiry and we haven't heard a thing," she said before the call. 

Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit, says the group has not heard a word about the timeline or the work of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women since August. (Sandy Tooma/CBC)

In September, Judge Marion Buller, the chief commissioner of the inquiry, promised that Inuit would not be sidelined.

CBC News contacted the chief commissioner as well as staff working on the commission for comment.

After two weeks, CBC received a response by email stating "The National Inquiry wishes to acknowledge Pauktuutit's concerns and commits to remaining in regular contact with all NIO's (national Indigenous organizations)."

Government of Nunavut prepares for inquiry

Earlier this month Keith Peterson, Nunavut's justice minister, issued an order under the Nunavut Public Inquiries Act, which gave the federally-appointed MMIW commission the authority to hold the inquiry in Nunavut.

Nunavut Justice Minister Keith Peterson wants the inquiry in Nunavut to pay close attention to the issue of domestic violence. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Peterson says he wants the inquiry in Nunavut to pay close attention to the issue of domestic violence.

"Our incidence of violence is 11 times the national average, so we feel they should look into institutional policies and practices implemented in response to violence experienced by Inuit women and girls in Nunavut."

The territorial government has also formed a working group tasked with providing guidance on a made-in-Nunavut inquiry. The group includes the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and the RCMP.

To assist families who wish to take part in the inquiry or who want to share their stories, a toll-free help line has been established by Nunavut Victim Services: 1-866-456-5216.

About the Author

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.