UNRESOLVED

'If you don't want the job, leave': Families of MMIWG ask inquiry to take more time

Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in northeastern Ontario are calling for changes to the national inquiry into their cases.

CBC Sudbury's Morning North launches series called Unresolved: MMIWG cases from northeastern Ontario

People in Sudbury, Ont., march in a vigil on October 4 to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)
Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in northeastern Ontario are calling for changes to the national inquiry into their cases.

Hearings are taking place across the country, but none are scheduled for the region where Vanessa Brousseau lives.

Her sister Pamela Holopainen, 22, was last seen leaving a Timmins house party in December 2003.

Holopainen is one of seven documented cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from northeastern Ontario.

Brousseau wants to share Holopainen's story at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, but she said she does not feel safe going to Thunder Bay — the only Ontario city where a hearing is scheduled so far. 

"I'm five foot two. 110 pounds. Aboriginal, Inuit woman and you want me to go to Thunder Bay where it's probably the most racist, the most missing and murdered out of that area," Brousseau said.

"I refuse."

Families supporting each other a 'saving grace'

Laura Lacrosse from Goulais River testified at an inquiry pre-hearing in Thunder Bay.

Her mom Deborah Anne Sloss, 42, was found dead in a Toronto rooming house in 1997.

Lacrosse still has questions about why police closed the investigation so quickly.

She said she has only been able to speak up because of the strength she has found in other families who have gone through similar experiences.

"Nobody can understand what you go through unless they've been there," Lacrosse said.

"The families that I've met have been my saving grace."

'If you don't want the job, leave'

Lacrosse and Brousseau both said they want the inquiry to become more family-oriented.

They said that means the relatives of missing and murdered women and girls should be able to meet with the inquiry's commissioners on their own schedule.

The inquiry will likely ask for more time and money to do its job, according to Commissioner Michele Audette.

"You're not going to have true, actual reports unless you talk to the families and that takes time," Brousseau said.

"Take the time. If you want the job, take the time. If you don't want the job, leave."

Tune into CBC Sudbury's Morning North at 7:20 a.m. ET during the week of October 23 to hear a new series called Unresolved, about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from northeastern Ontario. Listen live here.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.