Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic July 13, 2017 - 1:10 pm

MMIWG inquiry vows to continue despite latest resignation

INAC minister in damage control with departure of Marilyn Poitras

STEVE DUCHARME
Marion Buller, standing, in blue scarf, the chief commissioner of the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, with the other four commissioners in August 2016, at the announcement of inquiry in Gatineau, Qué. Marilyn Poitras, third from right, has since resigned leaving Buller and three other commissioners for now. (FILE PHOTO)
Marion Buller, standing, in blue scarf, the chief commissioner of the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, with the other four commissioners in August 2016, at the announcement of inquiry in Gatineau, Qué. Marilyn Poitras, third from right, has since resigned leaving Buller and three other commissioners for now. (FILE PHOTO)

The remaining commissioners in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls say they are “deeply committed with moving forward in a good way,” with scheduled consultations, in a statement following the resignation of Marilyn Poitras, July 11.

“We want to reassure the public that now, more than ever, we remain focused on this tremendously important work,” said the inquiry’s chief commissioner, Marion Buller.

Poitras, a Métis law professor from the University of Saskatchewan, announced she would resign as commissioner in the inquiry effective July 15, in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, July 11.

“I strongly feel the terms of reference that we were set out to achieve have not been met,” she said in her resignation letter, arguing that the model of the inquiry thus far has been a “colonial approach” to the systemic challenges faced by Indigenous women and girls.

“There’s a whole resiliency piece that no one is talking about,” she said in a section of her letter addressed to Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S people.

“I am here to remind you, that your courage and dedication got us here. Your truths, experiences and decades of fighting are what got this national inquiry.”

Commissioner Qajaq Robinson, an Ottawa-based lawyer who was raised in Igloolik, said in a Twitter statement, July 11, that community visits are continuing as planned over the summer, with a scheduled hearing in Rankin Inlet this December.

“I want to reassure families that we will continue to work, this resignation does not change our fall and winter schedule,” she tweeted.

The $53-million inquiry, which launched in September 2016, has faced criticism from Indigenous communities who feel that the inquiry’s progress thus far has been slow and poorly communicated.

The minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Carolyn Bennett, said during a media scrum at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, July 12, that she’s confident in the commission’s objectives after an emergency meeting held the day before.

“Communication has been an issue and that they have got to do a better job communicating their plan and their vision, values and the way that they’re going to get this work done,” she told reporters.

Bennett said any decision to replace Poitras would be decided by the government in consultation with the commission.

Commissioners told the minister they can continue as a four-member inquiry if necessary.

“We need to get this work done and we need to make sure that families are feeling listened to,” Bennett said, thanking Poitras for her work since being appointed to the position last August.

Reaction to the resignation echoed across the greater Indigenous community following Poitras’ announcement.

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada President Rebecca Kudloo thanked the commissioner for her work and reiterated support for the work of the inquiry, but called on the inquiry to properly communicate its plans with stakeholders.

“I have been asking for months for information about their plans to work with Inuit families and communities, and I am still waiting,” Kudloo said.

“I still don’t know the status of the Inuit Nunangat Advisory Circle that was committed to months ago.”

The inquiry’s Rankin Inlet hearing is scheduled to take place the week of Dec. 3, and is so far the only hearing planned in Nunavut.

Participation in the December hearing isn’t limited to residents of Rankin Inlet, and any Nunavummiut can request to take part.

There are a number of ways Nunavummiut can contact the inquiry to register for the upcoming inquiry:

• phone, toll free at 1-844-348-4119

• fax at 604-775-5009

• mail at PO Box 500, Station A – Vancouver BC V6C 2N3

• email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

• in-person during a community visit ahead of the hearing date

The commission also has an Inuktitut-language web page with more information.

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