By Steve Lambert
THE CANADIAN PRESS
WINNIPEG – There were more calls Wednesday for major changes to the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, including the resignation of all remaining commissioners.
“We think that it would be in the best interests of the Indigenous women of Canada that the current commissioners be brave and resign _ step down,” said Sandra Delaronde, co-chair of a coalition of Manitoba relatives of missing and murdered women.
“The national inquiry, in its current form, is not hearing the voices, is not inviting the consultation … of the families and those that work on a daily basis with families.”
Delaronde’s comments came one day after one of five inquiry commissioners, Marilyn Poitras, resigned saying she could not continue under the inquiry’s current structure. In recent weeks, the commission has also seen resignations from executive director Michele Moreau, director of operations Chantale Courcy and others.
Sheila North Wilson, a grand chief who represents First Nations in northern Manitoba, has called on chief commissioner Marion Buller to step down.
Relatives of the missing and murdered have lost faith that the inquiry will properly fulfil its mandate and offer hope that the number of victims will be lower in the future, the coalition said.
Delaronde says families don’t want the inquiry scrapped, but want several changes including a slate of new commissioners who are related to victims or who have worked closely with victims’ families and an Indigenous-led process that is less like a courtroom hearing.
Betty Rourke, whose sister and daughter were killed in separate incidents decades apart, said she watched footage of the inquiry’s hearing in Whitehorse and was shocked.
“It’s almost like you’re on trial there,” she said.
“We don’t want to have to be sworn-in, you know? Because we’re going to tell the truth. What, don’t you believe me? That hurts. That really hurts.”
The coalition also wants a separate commissioner for Manitoba.
The inquiry is still planning to move ahead with its work as planned, including nine hearings this fall beginning in September in Thunder Bay, Ont.
The federal government gave the commissioners a budget of about $53.8 million and asked them to complete their work by the end of 2018, with an interim report due in November.
Buller has already indicated more time and funding will be required but a formal application has yet to be filed to the federal government.