Indigenous

MMIW commission off to a bumpy start as communications director let go

The Director of Communications at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women has been let go and a new director, Sue Montgomery, has been hired in the interim.

Michael Hutchinson hired, let go within months by Missing and Murdered Indigeneous Women inquiry commission

Michael Hutchinson was hired as director of communications for the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in November. He said Friday he had been let go from the job. (Michael Hutchinson)

The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women hasn't yet started hearing testimony, but the commission behind it has parted ways with its recently-hired communications director.

Michael Hutchinson, a former news anchor with APTN who began his position as the director of communications for the national inquiry in late November, was recently terminated by the commission.

Hutchinson posted on Facebook that he lost his job with the hashtag #BandOfficed on Friday evening.

"I sincerely hope the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will be able to make a better future for Indigenous families. It's a heartache that needs to be resolved as soon as possible," he wrote on Facebook.

CBC News contacted Hutchinson, who confirmed he is no longer working with the commission but did not want to comment further.

CBC also confirmed Hutchinson's termination with Sue Montgomery, who is now the interim director of communications for the commission.

Sue Montgomery has been named as interim director of communications for the inquiry. (Sue Montgomery)

"I was already working with the commission, and now they've asked me to be the interim communications person until they find a replacement," Montgomery said from her home in Montreal.   

Montgomery was working as a senior communications advisor for the commission — a position she only started about three weeks ago.

Montgomery is a former journalist with the Montreal Gazette and co-creator of the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported, which went viral during the sexual assault allegations against CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi.

Montgomery said Hutchinson's termination will not delay the commission's work, and she is confident with the team at the national inquiry.

The federal government officially launched the $53.8-million independent inquiry, led by five commissioners, last August. It is still being set up, and is not expected to start hearing formal testimony from the families until spring.

Family impact

Sharon Johnson, whose sister was killed in 1992 in Thunder Bay, Ont., is hoping whatever changes the commission might be going through will not be difficult for the families.

"I say that because I know that there are family members out there that aren't doing well. Some are sick, fighting terminal illnesses or fighting addictions," says Johnson.

Sharon Johnson, whose sister Sandra Johnson was killed in 1992, says she hopes whatever changes the commission might be going through will not create more stress for families waiting for the inquiry to start. (Jody Porter/CBC)

"They might not get to see the day when something good is going to come out of this, if something good were to come out of this inquiry."

Johnson says she thinks frequently about the inquiry, considering how long it took for the commission to get to where it is now.

"There was period when we didn't even hear anything about it for months," says Johnson.

Since the federal government announced the inquiry in early August, the Commission has been criticized for its lack of communication with family members.

Last month, the commission added to its legal team and just days ago, Hutchinson stated the commissioners are now discussing ways to include Indigenous men and boys in the inquiry.

Testimonies are set to begin this spring with regional meetings taking place over the next few months across Canada.

The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is expected to take two years.

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