OTTAWA- With a 10 vote split, Assembly of First Nations chiefs have called for the removal of the head of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s inquiry.
The chiefs voted 58-48 Thursday to support a resolution to replace Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women chair Marion Buller. The inquiry is investigating the causes and why so many Indigenous women are victims of violence.
The chiefs called for Buller to be replaced and the inquiry restarted after a national consultation with victims’ families is held. they also voted to extend the time for the commission and called on families of victims nationwide to join together and decide how the inquiry should proceed.
The decision on replacing Buller rests with the federal governments. Buller has said she will not resign. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett’s office said consideration will be given to extending the time given to the inquiry but there has been no indication from Bennett’s office that Buller could be replaced.
Buller has been under intense scrutiny after months of complaints of delays, failure to reach out to victims families and lack of communication that led to calls for her resignation.
Buller spoke at the AFN Thursday morning where complaints were heard from families of victims including how the inquiry had treated them badly.
The AFN resolution was moved by Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson.
Chief Wilson called for “more direct and full engagement and involvement which hasn’t been happening with this national inquiry.The inquiry needs a reset.” She said Buller should step aside because she is responsible, as chief commissioner, “for how this is all unfolding and there have been a lot of requests before, during and after that she hasn’t been responsive to.”
Chief Wilson said despite numerous letters sent to the inquiry from British Columbia for hearings in Vancouver there has been no response.
She said the AFN chiefs had voted at its July session to support her continued leadership but provided a list of changes that needed to be made. She said none of the changes have occurred.
Sheila North Wilson, the Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak called for Buller to step down.
“You are probably a brilliant human being, but I tell you you are not a brilliant commissioner for this inquiry,” said Chief North Wilson.
She said she was upset with the lack of privacy given to families who were made to testify in front of television cameras “I don’t like seeing women crying on the news every day. It’s heartbreaking,” Ms. North Wilson later told reporters. She said there has been enough testimony before the inquiry for the commissioner to be speaking out about why so many Indigenous women have been murdered.
Commission chair Buller, sat listening to the call for her resignation, said she and the other commissioners would continue their work.
Some chiefs called for Buller to stay saying it was too late to start over.
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Chief Donald Maracle said it was too late to start over. “I think if you get rid of the commissioner, it will paralyze the operation and slow things down,” he said adding if there are concerns they should meet with the commissioners.
The Liberal government launched the $53-million commission fulfilling a campaign promise.