MMIW commissioner admits 'anger,' wishes inquiry could go further
Published Tuesday, December 5, 2017 10:00PM EST
A commissioner on Canada’s national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls fought back tears Tuesday and admitted that she was angry and wished the inquiry could do more to address the unsolved cases.
Michele Audette said she wishes the inquiry could reopen cold cases, but that it’s outside the inquiry’s mandate.
She also said she wants to extend the inquiry past its December deadline and warned that wrapping up too soon could mean that the inquiry’s recommendations won’t represent what’s happened in Canada.
“This journey triggers a lot. Anger,” Aduette said during the second day of hearings in Thunder Bay, Ont.
“I’m human, and it’s what we’ve heard since day one,” she later told reporters.
It was a pointed and personal admission from the commissioner on a day when more families came forward to share their experiences of losing loved ones.
Viola Panacheese disappeared from her home in Sioux Lookout, Ont. on Aug. 18, 1991. Hoping to find their mother, her children brought some of their only photographs of their mother to police.
Police officers later admitted that those photos may have been burned.
“Her file was lost,” Lillian Southwyn said. “The sergeant told me her file may have gone into the burn pile.”
Six years before Panacheese vanished, Sarah Skunk disappeared from Thunder Bay. She was 43, and her family says they’ll never stop searching for her.
“Let Sarah be heard through the voices of her sisters and her nieces and let the other many voices be heard here and honour those women. Something has to change.”
The treatment of Indigenous people in Thunder Bay has been under intense scrutiny. At least eight Indigenous students who moved to the town for school were found dead in recent years. Several drowned in a river.
In January, an Indigenous woman walking down the street was hit by a trailer hitch thrown by a passing car. Her sister says she heard someone in the car say “I got one” after she was struck.
Barbara Kentner, 34, underwent emergency surgery but eventually died from her injuries in July.
The inquiry has faced numerous setbacks since it began in September 2016. Commissioner Marilyn Poitras resigned over the summer and said that she “strongly” felt that “the terms of reference that we were set out to achieve have not been met.”
Several other officials, including the director of research and lead counsel, also have left the inquiry.
Some victims’ families have accused the inquiry of being disorganized and failing to consult with them during the planning phases. Advocates have said that a lack of transparency and poor communication has often left families frustrated and confused by the process.
The inquiry is due to issue a final report by the end of 2018.
With a report from CTV's Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon and files from The Canadian Press