Marilyn Poitras pictured on June 29 at the Honouring Our Brother and Sisters Memorial Walk in Prince Albert. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

By the end of this week, a National Inquiry will proceed without Saskatoon-based commissioner Marilyn Poitras, who provided a Metis lens on their work around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

On Tuesday, the MMIW Inquiry officially released a statement confirming that on July 15 Poitras will join a growing list of those departing the inquiry. She is the only of the five commissioners to resign, citing issues with “the process designed in its current structure” in a letter sent to both the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett.

Poitras attended a Prince Albert walk to honour lost loved ones at the end of June, and in speaking to MBC gave no indication of her upcoming plans to leave the Inquiry. At the time, she told MBC the commissioners needed to regroup after their initial Whitehorse hearings and that their research team is “putting together the draft interim report so that we can go through that, look at what’s already been done, make sure that we’re putting all those ducks in a row. So there’s lots of work going on.”

In an Ottawa news conference on Tuesday, Minister Bennett said the interim report is due in November. She is still unsure of how the Inquiry will proceed, but said the remaining four commissioners have indicated they are “more than prepared to go forward” without adding someone to replace Poitras.

“They are totally independent and determine their process,” Bennett said but added an important caveat, saying “ultimately it will be up to the government to decide, in consultation, as to what the next step will be.”

She noted concerns from the public and from the government around the lack of communication on the “some of the great things being done,” but echoed head Commissioner Marion Buller’s sentiment that the victims’ families want the Inquiry to go ahead despite the rocky process.

“We owe it to you, families, survivors and families of the heart to meet every challenge head on and to persevere for the spirits of those who have been lost and stolen,” Buller said in the Inquiry’s news release.

The news release states the Inquiry’s planned summer community visits will proceed as planned as they prepare for fall hearings, with a week of Saskatoon hearings starting Oct. 23. Bennett said the interim report, which will include reporting “what are the things they can do right now,” is still on schedule to be ready by November.

Meanwhile, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has issued a statement with National Chief Perry Bellegarde stating “we’re very concerned about this resignation because the work of the National Inquiry is too important and we want to see it succeed for the families.”

The news release says the AFN wants a families-first approach that brings healing and justice, and has invited the Commissioners to its national gathering, which takes place in Regina at the end of the month.

NDP Deputy Critic for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Georgina Jolibois has issued an open letter to the Inquiry saying she is “troubled” by Poitras’ resignation.

“We need to get the process right. This process must work for the families and survivors of missing and murdered Indigenous women,” Jolibois writes.

She adds a request for clarity on how the voices of her northern Saskatchewan constituents will be heard at the upcoming fall hearing, asking if there will be any hearings taking place north of Saskatoon for those who have trouble travelling long distances.