Still standing and ready to tell their terrible stories: MMIW Inquiry

Thursday, March 30th, 2017 2:53am


“This commission is doing things a lot differently than other commissions and that’s why so much work has gone into the front end."


By staff,
With files by Jeremy Harper, CFWE-FM


Commissioner Marilyn Poitras of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls acknowledges that the commission has faced some challenges; the same “that every ‘brand new’ anything faces,” she said.

But it’s the women that stand as a highlight of the work so far.

“We have met the most amazing women who have lived through things that most people would never have to, in their worst nightmares, live through and they are the people who have pushed this issue far enough and long enough, over decades... to make sure it has become part of the Canadian narrative so that we don’t ignore it.

“We’ve met mothers, aunts and sisters and grandmas that are still standing after losing family members and having them go missing in the most graphic, awful ways that want something better for their family.”

Poitras spoke with Jeremy Harpe of CFWE-FM about the announcement that the first hearing of the commission will be held in Whitehorse May 29.

He asked about the work so far, as there has been criticism that the commission has taken too long to begin the hearings.

Poitras said the commission has taken its time, touched base with a lot of people, elders and their teachers to make sure the work will be done in a way that’s respectful, inclusive and honoring all kinds of legal traditions—Canadian, Indigenous and International.

“We’ve selected a pretty great team, in my opinion,” Poitras said, with dedicated people who want to be part of the process and who are working from their hearts.

She said the hearings are what everyone is focusing on with the commission—“When are the hearings? When are the hearings?”

“This commission is doing things a lot differently than other commissions and that’s why so much work has gone into the front end. We want to be invited into communities. We want to ensure that when we get there the protocols, the traditions and practises, from traditional Indigenous practices to religious practices of Christians, are recognized and respected by us when we get there.”

Still, the challenges have been many, and she recites a laundry list, including choosing where to set up, how to set up, creating a relationship with the federal government and meeting its budget requirements, how to reach across a vast nation and bring people together while acting as a team, respecting Indigenous legal traditions as well as Canadian legal traditions.

The Yukon is the starting point, because you have to start somewhere, Poitras said, adding “ and they were ready.”

Poitras acknowledges that people are anxious about the time it’s taken to reach this point, and that they want to know what’s going on.

“One of the things that happens when you are dealing with people who have lived through trauma is leaving them out of the most basic details is not something that sits well with them…, so that’s where that criticism is coming from.”

She reminded Harpe that the commission is only months into the process, and ia doing it in a way that has not been done before, while starting from scratch to build a national office.

“When people look back, [the time spent] is not going to be out of the ordinary.”

She said the hearings will provide an inviting setting in which to share people’s trauma, and the hearings will not be the kind of damaging institutional process that people have been used to in the past.

“We’re asking people to share with us probably the worst parts of their lives in terms of talking about their friends and family members,” said Poitras.

The commission will not just hear from those on official lists—the Pickton list and the Highway of Tears list and the RCMP lists—“The systemic nature of the work that we’re looking at is much, much more inclusive than that.”

Listen to the Jeremy Harpe interview to find out how to become involved with a hearings.

Poitras said the commission is working really hard to encourage people to engage with the process.