Saskatoon

Mother of missing Danita Faith Bigeagle has serious concerns about MMIWG inquiry

Diane Bigeagle is among those who signed an open letter stating that the national Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls "is in serious trouble."

Diane Bigeagle says inquiry process chaotic, little communication with families

Diane Bigeagle is concerned about the national Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Jacob Morgan/CBC)

Diane Bigeagle says she hasn't been very impressed with the national Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Today, Bigeagle, along with many Indigenous families and organizations across the country, signed an open letter stating that the inquiry "is in serious trouble" and needs to "fundamentally shift its approach."

"We're all frustrated," said Bigeagle. "It's going too slow."

Earlier this month, an inquiry spokesperson told reporters that the commission wouldn't hold hearings this summer because families would be hunting or travelling during that time. The delay is only one of many problems families have had with the process.

"How many of us that have missing and murdered people are going to go trapping and hunting?" she said. "I found that so ridiculous."

Bigeagle's daughter, Danita Faith, has been missing since 2007. After her disappearance, her mother has become an outspoken advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

It isn't an option for this inquiry to fail. There are too many families that have been waiting for it.- Professor Julie Kaye

She said an inquiry hearing in Regina last year was chaotic, with family members shouting at the inquiry. She said her hearing did not have elders present, something that could have helped defuse a tense situation.

"If you're having a problem, they're the ones you go to, to those old men sitting in the corner," she said. "They'll calm you down. They'll reason with you. They'll tell you this is what's going to happen."

Bigeagle said the inquiry hasn't done a good job at communicating with families and she is frustrated it won't be looking into possible police misconduct. 

Danita Faith Bigeagle was last seen in 2007. (Sheryl Rennie/CBC)

"When they first came to Regina, we thought it was going along really good," she said. "Then it was like they hit a brick wall."

Failure not an option

Bigeagle isn't alone. People across the country have been voicing their displeasure on the inquiry's work.

"There are feelings of being retraumatized," said University of Saskatchewan professor Julie Kaye, one of the letter's signatories. "A lot of concern has been raised across the country."

Kaye said a number of concerns, from the inquiry's independence from the federal government to meetings that were suddenly cancelled, have created doubt for families.

"All these things have created a lot of uncertainty and confusion among the community," she said. "The need for strong leadership that really has that overarching vision in mind."

However, Kaye said she is hopeful the inquiry will be able to turn itself around.

"It isn't an option for this inquiry to fail," she said. "There are too many families that have been waiting for it, and are needing to see it work."

The commission is mandated to submit an interim report by Nov. 1 and produce a final report exactly one year later.

The commission has stated it intends to submit the interim report by its deadline and fulfil its mandate.

About the Author

David Shield is a web writer for CBC Saskatoon.

With files from Martha Troian