Leaders in Saskatchewan are weighing in on the departure of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls commissioner Marylin Poitras and the overall state of the inquiry.
NDP Federal MP Georgina Jolibois, from the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River riding penned a letter directly to Chief Commissioner Marion Buller following the resignation of Marilyn Poitras.
Jolibois said she was concerned by the resignation, particularly because Poitras’ resignation letter said ‘It is clear to me that I am unable to perform my duties as a commissioner with the process designed in its current structure.’
“We need to get the process right. This process must work for the families and survivors of missing and murdered Indigenous women,” Jolibois’ letter read.
The deputy critic of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada also voiced her concerns regarding plans to host one week of hearings in Saskatoon.
“There is great worry [among constituents] that a one week hearing in Saskatoon will not be sufficient to ensure that Northern families, who have been waiting for so long to be heard, will be included,” the letter reads.
She said the costs of travel for northerners is high, which presents a significant barrier. She encouraged the chief commissioner to consider hosting gatherings farther in the north.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice Chief Heather Bear said the organization is lobbying for gatherings in north, central, and southern Saskatchewan to build a good representation of the people across the province.
Staff from the inquiry are supposed to be making stops in Saskatchewan in the second week of August, following the Civic Holiday.
“I believe staff from the inquiry's community relations, health, and legal teams will be a part of that group as well,” Bear said. “There is work being done. I just hope that the families will continue to be patient.”
She said the staff is coming to help families register and discuss the needs of family members during hearings which are scheduled for October in Saskatoon. For residents in the northern portions of Saskatchewan, there is a phone number set up for family members to call with any questions they may have about the process.
Bear said the FSIN is cautiously optimistic about the future of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, but disappointed and disheartened with the departure of commissioner Marilyn Poitras.
“I've had some discussion with a couple of chiefs this morning... looking at calling on the minister Carolyn Bennett to ensure another commissioner is appointed,” Bear said. “First and foremost, this inquiry cannot fail. It's too important.”
She acknowledged the criticism the inquiry has faced along the way and said the leadership of FSIN has voiced their concerns directly to the commissioners during a meeting held earlier in July.
She said overall, the representatives from FSIN were able to walk away from the meeting “with an air comfort” about where the inquiry is at.
“With such a diverse group across Canada, you're never going to please everyone, but in my discussions, the commissioners are committed,” Bear said. “I think we really need to look towards our values, our traditions. We're used to obstacles, and we have to move through them, not around them.”
She said the women's commission in Saskatchewan still supports the inquiry despite the challenges it has faced so far.
“It's a big job, it's a hard job, it's an important job, but it's a job that needs to be done,” Bear said.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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