Missing and murdered inquiry to hold N.S. outreach sessions amid troubles
Sessions meant as an opportunity for survivors, families and communities to better understand the inquiry
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will be in Nova Scotia this week to meet with victims and families who wish to participate in the process, which is forging ahead amid multiple resignations, trust issues and demands for reform.
A team of health, legal and community relations workers will hold community visits today in Halifax, Wednesday in Membertou and Thursday in Millbrook.
More visits are planned ahead of a community hearing planned for Halifax the week of Oct. 30. Hearings are scheduled to take place across the country.
Critics of the independent inquiry — including family members, activists and academics — wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling the process "deeply misguided" and appealing for a fresh start.
Families have said they're being left out of the process and a number of key staffers have stepped down, including Marilyn Poitras, one of five commissioners appointed to the inquiry.
Visits seen as an opportunity
Terrellyn Fearn, director of health for the inquiry, said this week's outreach sessions in Nova Scotia are an opportunity for survivors, families and communities to better understand the process of the inquiry and its purpose.
"My personal hope is that anyone that participates in the inquiry feels empowered, has their dignity restored of their lost loved one and feels they were supported throughout this process," she said.
The inquiry will examine the factors driving a systemic, high rate of violence against Indigenous women and girls and the role of various institutions, including police forces, governments and coroners' offices.
It will also review various federal and provincial laws, but will not find criminal liability. Certain matters can be referred to police.
Breaking the silence
Fearn said people who have participated in the inquiry so far have found it to be cathartic.
"It can be really hard to share the stories," she said.
"We've met with some families and survivors that haven't shared their story in 54 years, so this is the first time that they're actually speaking with people and building trust, safety and comfort in sharing the story of themselves or their lost loved ones."
How to register
Besides in-person registration at the community visits, people can also register by phone, fax, mail or e-mail.
Fearn said many of the people working on the inquiry are survivors themselves or family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
There will be multiple ways for people to share their stories, including at the public hearing in Halifax in October, or in private through a statement, or through artistic expression like artwork, poetry or a song.
There will be supports in place for the people who participate in the inquiry, said Fearn.
"Based on the supports they want to have and they've identified and when they feel ready, then we'll proceed with hearing their story," she said.
With files from Jody Porter