Another lawyer quits MMIWG inquiry as resignations, firings mount

Another lawyer for the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls has resigned.

There have been at least 8 resignations and firings in last 2 months

Joseph Murdoch-Flowers, centre, during the testimony of family members of Loretta Saunders during hearings in Membertou First Nation last month. (Nic Maloney/CBC )

Another lawyer for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has resigned.

Iqaluit lawyer Joseph Murdoch-Flowers sent a short email to reporters on Tuesday morning saying he was no longer with the inquiry.

"I have resigned from the inquiry," said Murdoch-Flowers. "I will not comment further."

Murdoch-Flowers is the third lawyer to leave the inquiry in the last two months. Lawyer Karen Snowshoe tendered her resignation this month and it will take effect at the end of December. Former MMIWG lead lawyer Susan Vella left in October.

The departure of Murdoch-Flowers raised the number of people who have either resigned, quit or have been laid off to at least 22.

Murdoch-Flowers is also the eighth departure that has hit the inquiry following the appointment of Debbie Reid as executive director. Reid is a former adviser to former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine.

Reid's appointment followed the resignations this summer of former inquiry commissioner Marilyn Poitras and former executive director Michèle Moreau. 

The inquiry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Staff told to protect commissioners

Shortly after she was hired, Reid sent an email to all staff telling them their top priority was to protect the commissioners from "criticism or surprises."

Reid sent the email on Oct. 12, a little over a week after she was named to the position and made it clear she was brought in to create order within the inquiry and told staff, "I don't mince words."

She said her job was to "protect" the commissioners and it was something all staff should also prioritize.

"All staff are here to work to support four people," said the email obtained by CBC News from a source inside the inquiry. "All focus of staff must be to ensure that our commissioners are not exposed to criticism or surprises and that they are fully confident that we have their backs."

Debbie Reid, a former adviser to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine, was named the new executive director of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls on Oct. 6. (Debbie Reid/LinkedIn)

Three fired staffers recently went public with criticism of the inquiry saying they faced a toxic, high-pressure work environment with long hours and little support.

An internal inquiry source, who requested anonymity, said Reid repeatedly tells staff at meetings that their job is to support the commissioners.

"I thought the national inquiry was created to honour and investigate MMIWG," the source told CBC News. "I thought it was going to be a safe space for families and survivors? Instead, it's become about self-image and protecting the commissioners."


Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him