Rankin Inlet MMIWG hearing to stay in community, moved to a hotel

CBC News has learned the new location and prospective date for the Rankin Inlet, Nunavut hearings for the MMIWG National Inquiry.

MMIWG inquiry officials sent an email to hamlet officials with details, but left families in the dark

Rankin Inlet community hearings into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were postponed to an undetermined date and location, according to the national inquiry for MMIWG. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls hearings in Rankin Inlet that was postponed will be rerouted to a hotel in the community, CBC News has learned.

In an email addressed to several staff at the hamlet office, obtained by CBC News, a community liaison officer with the national inquiry cancelled its previous booking at the community hall, and said the new location will be the Siniktarvik Hotel, just a few minutes away from the original venue.

"The MMIWG Rankin Inlet Community Hearing site required more breakout rooms therefore it was postponed to the Siniktarvik Hotel in the New Year 2018 (dates to be confirmed)," it says in the email, sent on Friday.

It is unclear what "'breakout rooms" are, but the hamlet's SAO Justin Merritt suggested it may mean rooms that provide more privacy, which the community hall lacks.

The hearings were originally scheduled for Dec. 11, with Rankin Inlet being the inquiry's first Inuit community.

Last Thursday, the inquiry sent out a news release stating that the hearings were postponed, citing "privacy and safety" concerns for families at the original venue at the community hall.

The inquiry did not specify when or where the hearings would be held at the time.

CBC News called Siniktarvik Hotel and learned that several hotel rooms, not the conference hall or meeting rooms, were blocked off for the dates Jan. 15 to 19, under the name "national inquiry."

CBC News reached out to the national inquiry Tuesday, but it has not yet confirmed these details.

Families still left in the dark, confused

In the email addressed to the hamlet, the inquiry official says that "the majority" of families registered to testify in Rankin Inlet were "consulted and supported prior to the announcement [to postpone the hearings]." 

But families preparing to testify were left in the dark about details last week, when they heard the hearings were rescheduled.

"It's just not right," said Laura MacKenzie, who was gearing up to testify about her late aunt Betsy Kalserk in December.

MacKenzie, the woman who first invited the inquiry to Rankin Inlet, said she got a call from a inquiry representative Thursday, but didn't receive clarity on where or even if the hearings would happen.

"My fear is that they're not gonna come. My fear is that we, as a family, we're gonna have to fly down [south]," said MacKenzie on Friday.

She explained that the uncertainty of not knowing when, or where, the hearings would be was "opening up old wounds" and was re-victimizing families.

"It's emotionally crippling," she said.

Rebecca Kudloo of Baker Lake, Nunavut is the president of Pauktuutit. (Submitted by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada)

"We are very, very disheartened by this," said Rebecca Kudloo, president of the Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, a non-profit organization representing Inuit women across the country.

The non-profit announced it was granted funding in May to participate in the proceedings, and to provide recommendations to the inquiry.

"It's been difficult working with them, because they don't seem to want to take our advice," said Kudloo.

Kudloo said Friday that her organization, as well as the families she's been working with, were also unaware of details about the cancellations in Rankin Inlet.

"This causes more trauma to them," said Kudloo.

With files from Nick Murray