20 family members and survivors expected to testify at MMIWG inquiry in Nunavut

Nunavummiut are gathering in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, this week for the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Hearings start Tuesday at Siniktarvik Hotel and Conference Centre

Monica Ugjuk at the opening ceremonies for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. (Randi Beers/CBC)

Nunavummiut are gathering in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, this week for the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

This hearing is the only one scheduled for Nunavut.

The opening ceremony was held Monday evening. It featured the lighting of the qulliq, a traditional Inuit oil lamp, and remarks from commissioners and dignitaries.

"We will laugh, we will share tears, but it will be healing for us," said commissioner Qajaq Robinson, who grew up in Nunavut and speaks fluent Inuktitut.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national organization that represents 60,000 Inuit, also spoke at the ceremony.

"I promise you I will do everything in my power as an elected leader to ensure your powerful truths are translated into systemic changes for Inuit women and girls in this country."

Ten individuals are scheduled to publicly testify in front of commissioners at the Siniktarvik Hotel and Conference Centre.

Commissioners Robinson and Michele Audette are expecting to hear from a total of approximately 20 family members and survivors, according to a statement from the inquiry. They will come in the form of private and public testimonies, sharing circles and artistic expression panels.

Hearings are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. CT Tuesday, and 9 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and will run all day. Members of the public are invited to join.

A crowd at the Siniktarvik Hotel and Conference Centre in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Monday for the opening ceremonies. (Randi Beers/CBC)

    While many people come forward to testify about loved ones who have gone missing or have been murdered, commissioners also want to hear from Indigenous women who have survived violence themselves.

    The inquiry is travelling across Canada in an effort to understand why Indigenous women are statistically five times more likely to die by violence than other Canadian women.

    While some share their stories publicly, commissioners also collect testimony privately. There is no need to give advance notice for giving private testimony — inquiry organizers have room to take an additional six walk-ins, according to a news release from the inquiry.

    "We know in our hearts we shouldn't have to live in fear, we shouldn't have to live in shame," Aluki Kotierk, president of  Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., said during the opening.

    "This isn't the way we used to live traditionally. With these goals in our hearts we can make the changes by speaking here, and raise ourselves up again."

    During each day, health support workers are on hand to help anybody who might be emotionally or psychologically struggling with the topics discussed.

    Earlier this month, inquiry health manager Barbara Sevigny announced all available spaces for public testimony had been filled for the Rankin Inlet hearings.

    This comes after organizers worried turnout would be low.

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