A survivor's perspective: Don't give up on the MMIWG inquiry

With the future of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls under intense debate, writer Brandi Morin — a survivor of sexual abuse herself — says she holds onto hope for the inquiry's success, in whatever form it takes.

'I am still holding onto hope for its success, in whatever form it takes,' writes Brandi Morin

Brandi Morin is a national Indigenous journalist and mother of three based in Alberta. (Submitted)

I was given a second chance. Sometimes I question the Creator as to why, but I can't dwell there. It would be dishonouring to the thousands of Indigenous women whose lives were taken and continue to be taken.

I fought to get where I am — through growing up in and out of the foster care system, a rape that almost left me dead at age 12, becoming a single mother at age 18, living on welfare and accessing the food bank for a season to get by.

But I held on to a dream in my heart for something more. With the gifts that Creator God gave me, I wanted to rise up past the adversity of my youth. And I did. I am.

With all the chaos unfolding with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), it's frustrating to witness what many of us have prayed for for so long appear to crumble.

From a survivor's point of view, through all the uncertainty, I am still holding onto hope for its success, in whatever form it takes.

I don't have the answers as to how it will work best, who should be in what position and why. But I do want it to succeed so that this dark chapter of our history can be closed forever and Indigenous women in this country can safely grow up and follow their destinies as they are meant to.

Aspirations, strengths and gifts

I could've been Tina Fontaine, just 14 years old, whose lifeless body was found wrapped in plastic floating down the Red River…. I was running away from home too, running away from child services and group homes. I could've ended up murdered, like Tina, who had a life of untold aspirations ahead that were brutally robbed away.

I was just as lost as her all those years ago, when the men took my innocence and threatened to kill me before I escaped. I am thankful I lived. Because, like Tina and many others, I had unbridled strengths, talents and gifts to share.

Now I am sharing my gifts.

As a national Indigenous journalist I bring passion, truth and strength to the media world. I carry a hunger to create an impact from my heart, to the keyboard, to the pages, and to the minds of readers. Through the stories of the people I tell lives are changed, sometimes government policies are influenced, the wonder of Indigenous culture is shared and voices are heard.

Most importantly I am a mother of three beautiful children. Could Tina have become a mother? What about all the sons and daughters left behind? So, I will be the best mother I can be because I am still here. I will remember the MMIWG whose mothers and babies are crying out for them to come back home but never will.

'We are your neighbours'

When people think of MMIWG, I often wonder what picture forms in their minds. Do they see the young girl or woman that was like me? Do they see her as a writer like me? Do they see them as mothers and daughters?

Or do they imagine them as high-risk runaways, no-good Indians or prostitutes that had it coming? You know, because I've heard those opinions time and time again.

But I am here and I'm so much more than those stereotypes, those lies, those rumours, those ugly excuses to target us as worthless and disposable.

We as survivors and MMIWG were and are your neighbours, your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, your aunts, cousins. We are writers, artists, lawyers, teachers, dancers, and endless more. We are world-changers. And this is our time. Finally, the injustice will come to an end.

But with the technicalities of the inquiry going awry in a very public format, it's easy to become jaded and detached from the purpose of this unprecedented undertaking.

Commissioners Brian Eyolfson (left to right), Marilyn Poitras, chief commissioner Marion Buller, Michele Audette, Qajaq Robinson and Susan Vella, lead legal counsel for the commission, speak to reporters in February. Poitras resigned from the commission earlier this month. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Spirits live on

Nevertheless this is a chance get to know the faces of the beautiful and sacred women and girls whose bodies were murdered but whose spirits live on, the ones who are missing and the thousands of survivors like me.

To find the truth, to heal and come together to fight this national tragedy of our Indigenous women and girls being snuffed out left and right in what some call one of the greatest countries in the world.

We need to hold on for our lives like we never have before. This shaking-up of the formal process of tackling MMIWG isn't going to be a ride in the park. But we are resilient; we've already survived through so much more. This is a chance to use our strength to hold up the spirits of our MMIWG until justice reigns loudly across Canada.

As a survivor, I am behind the concept of this inquiry in whatever form it might take, and I pray every day that it will find its way. We don't have time to waste — it's already been too long and almost every day we learn of another being lost or gone.

To you other survivors, please go and share your story at the hearings. It will make a difference, you do matter. Your story is needed to help get to the bottom of this. Go stand strong and proud alongside the families and loved ones of those whose voices are still crying out for answers.

Brandi Morin, Métis, born and raised in Alberta, possesses a passion for telling Indigenous stories. Based outside Edmonton, Morin has lent her talents to several news organizations, including Indian Country Today Media Network and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News. She is now hard at work striving to tell the stories of Canada's Indigenous Peoples to a broader audience.