More than 100 people were set to speak in Richmond beginning today, during the final leg of hearings in Canada’s national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“The courageous people who have come forward and who will come forward to share their truths are re-writing Canadian history,” said chief commissioner Marion Buller during the opening prayers at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel.
The five days of hearings will see the 1,000th testimony heard during the inquiry, which began in May 2017. The inquiry was launched in 2016 after calls for action from Indigenous families and organizations as a way towards reconciliation.
The commissioners’ mandate is to examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors, and form recommendations in a final report to the federal government.
With unlimited time, as well as support from family members and friends, the speakers are scheduled to share their stories of violence, sexual exploitation and calls for healing.
|Opening prayers during the first day of five in last community hearing for the national inquiry into missing and murdered women and girls. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip called on witnesses to stand together, “shoulder to shoulder,” and support each other through telling their truths.
“It’s important for this country and for our people to here to know and understand the dark underside, the brutal side, of the colonial experience, the residential school system, the apprehension of our children by the province,” Phillip said, “and all the discriminatory and racist things that have happened to Indigenous peoples in this country, that have caused great harm, great hardship and heartbreak.”
Advocate Gladys Radek called for the public to hold the government accountable for action after the hearing is complete.
“We don’t want this inquiry to be a fail, and we’re not going to allow the government to make it a failure,” said Radek, whose 22-year-old niece Tamara Lynn Chipman disappeared while hitchhiking in Prince Rupert in 2005.
|Gladys Radek calls for accountability and action by government in last leg of national inquiry Wednesday. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Buller and three other comissioners are waiting to hear from the federal government on her request to extend the inquiry to a full two years.
Buller made the call for an extension to Indigneous Afairs Minister Carolyn Bennet in March. If granted, the time would be used to speak with experts, host roundtable discussions and hold further inquiries in more communities across the country.
If the extension is not granted, the final report is expected to be complete by the end of the year, translated into both French and Indigenous languages before being released to the public in 2019.