Rhonda Lee McIsaac —
Chief Commissioner Marion Buller stood fixed behind a podium in the Haida House at the Museum of Anthropology, stating how eager and excited she was to announce the summer and fall plans of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Chief Commissioner announced the nine locations across Canada where the National Inquiry will visit between July and September to lay the ground work for fall hearings.
Sept 10 – Thunder Bay, ON
Sept 25 – Smithers, BC
Oct 16 – Winnipeg, MB
Oct 23 – Saskatoon, SK
Oct 30 – Halifax, NS
Nov 6 – Edmonton, AB
Nov 13 – Yellowknife, NWT
Nov 27 – Maliotenam, PQ
Dec 24 – Rankin Inlet, NU
“This ground work is critical,” said Buller after hearing concerns from critics of the Inquiry and learning from the community hearings experience in Whitehorse, Yukon. Buller explained about the importance of self-preparation for individuals and the Commissioners themselves, and the need to ‘ground’ families and survivors for the work of the National Inquiry to be “done in a good way”. “It’s important,” she stressed.
Expert panel hearings will also be held in Winnipeg and Montreal. This summer in Winnipeg, a panel will share their knowledge of Indigenous laws and decolonization. In the fall, there will be a Human Rights, International Law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples panel convening in Montreal. Locations, dates and times will be released by the National Inquiry, stated Buller.
Many missing and murdered women’s families, survivors, and Indigenous leaders continue to express their dismay and cautious optimism at the events unfolding at the National Inquiry; with four staff resigning, another call for Buller’s resignation and delays in testimony. Buller has clearly and firmly stated that she does not intend to resign.
In a two-page statement Commissioner Marilyn Poitras cited the current structure of the National Inquiry was not in line with the set terms of reference and they would not be met. “This is why it is with great regret and a heavy heart that I resign my position as commissioner, effective July 15.”
Poitras’ vision for the National Inquiry was more Indigenous-based, she said, with a focus on the issues and the stories of resiliency of Indigenous people which she felt was lacking in the ten months she sat on the Commission.
The National Inquiry and community visits will continue to move with “lightning speed” despite the resignation of Commissioner Poitras. This was again confirmed by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett, who accepted the resignation and assured survivors, their families, and the public that the work would continue.
Commissioner Buller will be at the helm to meet the November deadline for an interim report and intends to lead the National Inquiry forward into 2018 when a second round of community hearings will be held in smaller locations. Those locations will be announced in the near future.