As It Happens

Too many stories, too little time: Why the MMIWG inquiry wants police to delve into cold cases

Commissioner Brian Eyolfson tells As It Happens why the inquiry wants more time, more money and a police task force to investigate cold cases.
A photograph of murder victim Terrie Ann Dauphinais is seen during a 2014 protest calling for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. A inquiry has since been launched and is now calling for a police task force to look at cold cases. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Story transcript

After numerous delays and high-profile resignations, the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is blaming bureaucratic red tape for its troubles and calling for more money and an extended timeline.

Commissioners released their first interim report on Wednesday, calling for the the creation of a national police task force to review cold cases the inquiry says it can't investigate.

A more complete report is due in exactly one year, but commissioners say that's not enough time.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with commissioner Brian Eyolfson about why the commission is asking for more time, more money and Canadian police forces to pick up some of the slack.

The inquiry was supposed to deliver its final report one year from today. How much more time do you think you and your fellow commissioners are going to need?

We are on schedule to deliver the final report one year from today. However, we do plan to ask for additional funds and time to do our work because we think we can do much better job with more time.

There have been, as of recently, over 900 people who have registered to come and share their truths with us. So there's a lot of people who want to speak with us and I think to do this job well, we need more time.

From left to right, MMIW inquiry commissioners Brian Eyolfson, Marion Buller, Michelle Audette and Qajaq Robinson. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

But people are very frustrated. So why the delay? What's holding you up?

We did have challenges in getting up and running because we started with effectively nothing but piece of paper and I'm not sure people realized how much work had to go on behind the scenes to hire staff and get offices in place.

This isn't the first federally funding inquiry Canada has had. I mean, you can't get phones to work, you've got red tape delays, you've got all these problems for months at a time. Were you not supported?

We've been working and doing our best to get up and running. We've done most of that work. We're beyond that and we have got a lot of momentum now in terms of getting out and meeting with families, having our hearings and hearing people's stories and truths.

If there's a refrain you're hearing throughout these testimonies, what is it?

We're hearing a lot of people telling us about what they feel they've experienced in terms of racial discrimination or various forms of discrimination, whether that be a combination of racism and sexism.

We've also heard about intergeneration effects of residential schools and how that impacts on families.

And we've heard stories about the ongoing legacy of colonialism and how it continues to affect people today.

Brian Eyolfson despite the inquiry's rocky start, it now has a lot of momentum. (CBC)

These are things we have heard elsewhere. We certainly heard this through the truth and reconciliation process. So how will you get down to the issue of the actual women ... and the expectations that these families have that they want to see proper investigations into the deaths of the women and girls in their family? 

We have a recommendation that the federal government work with the provinces and territories to set up a police task force that can look at some of these cases because families and survivors really want answers and I think they deserve that.

MMIWG commissioners want a national police task force

5 years ago
Duration 1:52
Chief Commissioner for the MMIWG inquiry Marion Buller released the commission's interim report calling for a national police task force that could review cold cases.

And do you think that if such a police task force were set up that there would be cold cases reopened?

I think it could go along way to answering a lot of questions for a lot of people.

What is your sense of how these investigations have been conducted?

It's a bit early to comment on that. 

Have you heard testimonies that might mean or might merit a reopening of a case?

At this point, having heard from a number of family members about their versions of the way that some investigations were conducted, it does raise concerns about the way they were conducted.

Matilda Wilson holds up a picture of her youngest child, Ramona, who disappeared in 1994. (CBC)

What do you say to the families and Indigenous leaders who are saying that your inquiry needs a complete reset?

We put a lot of work into putting this inquiry together and we're up and running and we've been conducting hearings. In my view, those hearings have been going very well. 

It would seem like a shame at this point, in my view, to put a stop to this. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our conversation with Brian Eyolfson.