(ANNews) – The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG2S) is conducting community hearings across Canada. They are in Winnipeg right now until October 20, then they will head to Membertou from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, before coming to Edmonton and then Yellowknife. The Winnipeg hearings are being streamed on APTN and CBC Indigenous.
In discussing the importance of the Commission’s work, Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said, “The tragedy of our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is felt so deeply and painfully by Indigenous families but it is also a painful legacy felt by all Canadians. Parliament and the Prime Minister of Canada have chosen finally to address this terrible legacy. The profound commitment of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is to listen to those who have suffered, to share their stories with Canadians and to learn what we can do to prevent other families and loved ones from experiencing such suffering.”
The format of the hearings includes an opening ceremony the afternoon before the hearings start. This ceremony is open to the public.
There are open hearings accessible to the public, where families and survivors speak in front of Commissioner(s). A pool camera will also be on-site, so the Canadian public will be able to watch the feed through numerous national media websites.
The Commissioners is also hearing private testimony. The location and times are not publicly available to protect the safety and the privacy of families and survivors. These measures are taken to protect the safety of some families and survivors that are at risk of experiencing violence or re-traumatization if required to speak in a public venue.
There will also be Statement Gatherers available during the Community Hearings for those who wish to have a more intimate space or who wish to register and share their story on site. This method is facilitated by trained Statement Gatherer and offers an option to those who wish to provide testimony to the Commissioners in a video recorded format.
Although there continues to be controversy surrounding the Inquiry, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) continues to support the MMIWG2S and stresses the importance of approaching the National Inquiry with a Trauma-Informed lens. NWAC President Francyne D. Joe explained:
“While there has been discussion about the need for the Commissioners and staff to apply a trauma-informed lens on all aspects of the National Inquiry work – for example, by being honest and transparent with what MMIWG2S families can expect at every stage of participation, NWAC is asking that we all remain mindful of the need to apply a trauma-informed lens when discussing the National Inquiry.”
“This is not to say that we cannot be critical of the National Inquiry, there are issues that need to be resolved and many, NWAC included, are looking for reassurances that our concerns are being heard and plans are being put in place to ensure improvements are made. NWAC will continue to release Report Cards as well as work directly with the National Inquiry to provide guidance and support.”
Applying a trauma-informed lens to discussions around the National Inquiry respects the reality that many families are counting on this important work. More than 750 individuals have registered to participate in some way with the National Inquiry. Several dozen have also provided testimony and evidence at the Whitehorse, YK and Smithers, BC Family Hearings and now in Winnipeg.
“There are also long-time advocates that came to NWAC and asked for us to support a call for a National Public Inquiry and these relationships continue to be honoured.”
“As I continue to travel across the country and our sister organizations continue to provide on-the-ground support to families,” explained NWAC President Joe, “we hear from families that are looking forward to participating, many considering sharing their story for the first time. These realities need to be considered every time the National Inquiry is criticized because these critiques do not stand in isolation but rather are connecting to the lives and experiences of the women, Two-Spirit people and families impacted by this violence.
“The presence of the National Inquiry itself also represents the first time Canadians may be introduced to the issue of MMIWG2S. We want the public to hear from families and learn about the root causes of this violence. And, similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we want Canadians to be empathetic and want to be part of a movement for social change. Disparaging the National Inquiry is distracting from the real issue and takes space away from the experiences of families.
“At the same time, we know that there are families that are calling for a ‘reset’ and NWAC respects every family’s choice to participate in any way they wish,” shared NWAC President Joe, adding, “however, until we hear from hundreds of families from all across the country, NWAC will remain committed to this process and continue to reiterate that we have a vested interest in the success of the National Inquiry.”
Meanwhile Chief Commissioner Marion Buller announced recently that Debbie Reid has been hired as the new Executive Director of the Commission.
From the Skownan First Nation in Manitoba, Reid has a dynamic work background that ranges from community to national level. She has worked for her own community, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and moved on to be a special advisor to former National Chief Phil Fontaine while he was with the Assembly of First Nations. She also has over 10 years’ experience in senior positions within the federal public service including having worked in the Privy Council Office and the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch within Health Canada.
“Debbie Reid has focused her entire career on working for or on behalf of Indigenous people. My fellow Commissioners and I are extremely pleased to have another strong Indigenous woman with an excellent track record join our team,” Buller stated. “The Commissioners would also like to take this time to thank Aideen Nabigon for her contributions over the past few months as the Interim Executive Director. Aideen will continue to play a role in supporting the Commission in its work in her new role as Special Advisor to Commissioner Qajaq Robinson.”
Regarding the upcoming community hearings Buller stated,
“We are determined to keep moving forward in a good way- for the 750 and counting- families and survivors who want to participate in the National Inquiry. Considering that registration is done entirely on a voluntary basis, we understand the magnitude of the level of interest in First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities. That is why our frontline and outreach workers continue to encourage all families and survivors to share their truths.
“The Commissioners and current staff remain committed to meeting all of the mandate’s obligations and more. We are bound together through the powerful testimonies of family members and survivors who have already shared their stories with us in Smithers BC last week and in Whitehorse, YK this past spring and now in Winnipeg from October 16-20, 2017.
“We continue to be adaptable and look forward to hearing from more families and survivors during the remaining seven that we have scheduled through to December. There will be more Community Hearings and Expert Panel Hearings in 2018, in addition to Institutional Hearings. We are listening to your suggestions, and once our schedule is finalized, we will inform you right away.”
Click here for information about how to participate in an upcoming hearing.