MMIWG Rankin Inlet public hearings fully booked as date nears

After initial concerns that turnout would be low for the MMIWG’s visit to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, all available spaces have been filled two weeks before the public hearings.

Those who still want to share their stories can do so on camera

The public hearings run from Feb. 20 to 22 in Rankin Inlet. Pictured are representatives of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls pictured in Inuvik, N.W.T. From left to right: Looee Okalik, Francine Merasty, Frank Hope and Barbara Sevigny. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

After initial concerns that turnout would be low, all available spaces have been filled at the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women hearings in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, two weeks prior to the public event. 

All of the slots for victims and families to speak at the hearings have been booked, according the inquiry's health manger, Barbara Sevigny.

"I understand that it's a little more complex in Nunavut. The numbers were low in the beginning, but they have increased the more people are aware of how to share their stories," Sevigny said.

If others still want to come forward, Sevigny says the inquiry will set it up so they can share their stories on camera.

The opening ceremony will occur on Feb. 19, and the hearings run from Feb. 20 to 22, but Sevigny and Looee Okalik will be heading to Rankin Inlet in the middle of next week to prepare — weather permitting.

They will be joined by a representative from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., one from the Kivalliq Inuit Association, as well as the president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and Rankin Inlet's assistant deputy mayor.

The inquiry has hired counsellors from Nunavut to be present at the hearings to support those who share their stories.

National inquiry wants Inuit voices

"It's crucial that Inuit take part in the national inquiry, because we know there are some stories out there about how Inuit have been impacted by either residential schools, dog-team slaughter or relocation, or lack of services in the North, or they've come across some issues with the system whether it be police or child welfare services, or medical services.

It's important for them to share that so the commissioners can give recommendations for what needs to change in the North."

For those who have yet to come forward and are still interested — or those who have questions about the hearings —Sevigny says they can call her personally to avoid waiting on hold with the inquiry's 1-800 number.

Her cellphone is 1-343-998-9772 and Okalik can be reached at 1-613-762-9983.

With files from Jordan Konek