Michele Audette. Photo courtesy of Manfred Joehnck.
Delegates attending the AFN General Assembly in Regina last night provided a polite applause to two members of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, but then things got a little more heated when the floor was opened up for questions.
Family members of victims and some delegates took to the microphones to call for a fresh start. There were several calls for the inquiry members to resign and a restart for the entire process, which began about a year ago. A delegate from Manitoba says the inquiry was flawed and destined to failure from the beginning.
“It’s not our inquiry, it never was our inquiry,” he said. “We want a hard reset, and we are asking the remaining four commissioners to resign.”
There was also a lot of criticism about the terms of reference, especially as it relates to examining police policy and procedures as it relates to investigating cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Family members say police failed them as well, and that must be part of the entire inquiry process.
Commission member, Michele Audette, says mistakes have been made along the way, especially in the area of communication.
“We were too silent, and that needs to stop,” she said. “And that is something that we have doing, with mistakes of course. We are human beings, we are not perfect, but also we want to be sure we do it well.”
There have been lots of bumps along the way for the inquiry, and not much progress since it began its work in September of 2016. Earlier this month, Marilyn Poitras, a commission member from Saskatchewan, resigned, saying she didn’t like the direction the inquiry was taking. In June, the executive director quit. Another big problem has been retaining communications staff.
The inquiry has a budget of about $54 million. It was expected to finish its work in two years, but that timeline will likely have to be extended, as only one hearing has been held so far. The budget will also likely have to be increased.