'It's a long time coming:' Families of MMIWG in Sask. prepare for hearings
40 witnesses registered to testify in Saskatoon, but more expected
Delores Stevenson believes there's more to her niece's story — a story that's kept the 33-year-old searching for justice for the past two years.
On Jan.10, 2015, Nadine Machiskinic, 29, died after falling ten storeys down a laundry chute.
At first, her death was ruled an accident. Then, a coroner's inquest was held and a jury found her manner of death "undetermined."
Stevenson has pressed for answers, sharing her niece's story numerous times. She will do so again on Tuesday when she testifies about her niece's life, tragic end and what her absence has meant for the family — this time, as part of a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
- VIDEO: Sask. RCMP to review police probe into Nadine Machiskinic's death
- Special report: How did a Regina mom fall 10 storeys down a laundry chute to her death?
'Cracks within the justice system'
"I just want to be able to not only share her story, but to continue to bring to light the cracks within the justice system," said Stevenson, who believes racism factored into the investigation of her niece's death.
"I can relate to other families, I can't speak on behalf of other families, but I want to share her story because missing and murdered Indigenous women, with everything that's going on, it involves a lot of injustice."
Hearings start Tuesday
Three days of community hearings start Tuesday at the Sheraton Cavalier Saskatoon Hotel. Commissioners are expected to hear from 40 witnesses through public and private hearings, as well as through art and sharing circles .
But Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte expects there to be at least twice as many families and people that want to make statements, which the inquiry says it can accommodate.
Okemaysim-Sicotte, who has volunteered in a missing women's group for the past 12 years, will testify in an in-camera session Tuesday. Back in 1992 her cousin Shelley Napope was murdered by John Howard.
"It's a long time coming," she said of her upcoming session, saying she feels a mix of anxiety and readiness.
She explained she wants to express the impact the loss of these women has on their families and wider communities.
"It's really hard to see women, mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, fathers, brothers just really struggle with rage and anger and frustration, but at the same time try to heal."
Okemaysim-Sicotte said families are feeling anxious in light of the recent firing of Morene Gabriel, a Commission community liaison for Saskatchewan-Manitoba.
Questions about aftercare
Diane Bigeagle's daughter Danita Faith Bigeagle went missing in 2007. She says plans to meet with the commission on Tuesday, but has not yet agreed to testify.
"I told them I want to see what they have in place for aftercare like, you know, who's going to take care of us after and talk to us," explained Bigeagle, who plans to attend the hearing with Danita's sister and children.
"You're hurt, you're angry, you're frustrated, like all rolled up into a ball," she said of talking about her daughter.
Bigeagle, who has voiced concerns in the past about the progress of the inquiry, said she wasn't planning on taking part in the hearings, but community advocates encouraged her to.
"It's for my daughter."
"I've got to give it a shot, I've got to give them a chance. They're doing the best they can."
Hopes inquiry heads to northern. Sask
Conrad Burns is the missing person liaison for victims services in Prince Albert, Sask., and said a few families from the city will be participating in the hearings.
He plans to go and listen.
"It's going to definitely let me support them more and build that bond between me and the families," Burns said of hearing from witnesses.
"But also, it's going to give me the understanding of how to reach out to families and children and women that are vulnerable in our community and how to be proactive and to ensure that this situation never happens again."
Going forward, he hopes the inquiry visits Prince Albert and other northern communities for more testimonies.
"The smaller communities need to have an opportunity to be heard."
With files from Olivia Stefanovich