MMIW Inquiry extends deadline for those with vested interest in participating

While the families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women automatically qualify to testify at the National Inquiry, organizations and groups with a vested interest must apply to participate.

Organizations or groups looking for standing now have until April 18 to apply

The deadline to apply for standing at the MMIW National Inquiry has been pushed back from April 10 to 18. (CBC)

The national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women is giving those with vested interest a little more time to get their applications in.

The deadline for groups, organizations, individuals and government bodies has been pushed from April 10 to April 18. 

Commission counsel, Christa Big Canoe, said translating the announcement and applications into Indigenous languages took longer than expected.

"It wouldn't be fair if people had a shortened amount of time because it wasn't available in their language," she said.

Families and survivors automatically qualify as witnesses, meaning they do not have to apply or be approved to testify by the commissioners. However, they do need to register.

The director of community relations, Waneek Horn-Miller said it's protocol to have families come to the inquiry requesting to participate.

"We're not going to compel people because that is a lot like a judge saying you need to show up," said Horn-Miller in Winnipeg last week. "It's that whole idea of giving people choice."

She said the team will give families all of the necessary forms and information at upcoming advisory sessions, so they can make an informed choice about whether or not they want to participate. 

What is standing?

Big Canoe said being granted standing means the applicant has the right to participate in an inquiry or inquest.

She said in this case, there are different levels of standing: regional, national, and issue-specific.

Christa Big Canoe is acting as commission counsel for the national inquiry.
 "Some of the applicants will only be seeking to making submissions on certain issues, so as an example, child welfare issues," she explained. 

She said someone who is an expert on a specific topic or issue would only attend related hearings. She said groups or organizations who do similar work can also apply together.

In some cases commissioners may grant the applicants the right to cross-examine and use their knowledge to ask specific questions of institutions, government, or experts to go onto the record.

Big Canoe said families and survivors will not undergo cross-examination.

The lawyer cautions groups wanting standing to really consider the scope of participation they want.

"I think a lot of times people assume they want everything and then they realize no, maybe it is [sufficient] to go in on a particular issue because that is where our expertise or knowledge lays," she said.

She recommends applicants give the commissioners several options about how they would like to participate, even laying out either/or scenarios.

She said anyone who applies will get a written decision from the commissioners explaining the extent of participation they've been given. Big Canoe said there isn't a timeline in place yet for completing this process because the commission has no idea as to how many applications it will receive. 

She did say that there will be no preferential treatment given in the decision-making process.

This round of applications does not include standing for closing submissions. Big Canoe said anyone who wants to follow the evidence given at the inquest, and wants to make recommendations, can apply for closing submission standing at a later date.


Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been working as a journalist for nearly 15 years. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor