Inquiry encourages participation

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Barbara Sevigny, left, health manager with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and Looee Okalik, community liaison officer with the inquiry, spoke to the 47th Dene National Assembly on July 19.

A representative of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls brought a message of getting involved in the process to the 47th Dene National Assembly.

“As much as the turmoil and loss the First Nations, Inuit and Metis women and girls may have faced in their final hours, we need to honour, respect and support loved ones, families and survivors across the country,” said Looee Okalik, community liaison officer with the inquiry, during comments to the assembly on July 19 on the Hay River Reserve.

Okalik explained the inquiry’s mandate is to examine and report on systemic causes of all forms of violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada.

The inquiry will conduct community visits prior to community hearings across Canada.

“An interim report is set for November of 2017,” said Okalik. “Additional community hearings will be conducted from winter to spring in 2018.”

She stressed that families, loved ones and survivors of violence should register to ensure they will be heard at the hearings before a final report is prepared.

Currently, 450 people are registered to testify at the hearings.

Okalik said a community visit will take place in Yellowknife during the week of Aug. 28, and it will be followed by a community hearing in the capital city during the week of Nov. 13.

Liza Pieper, the president of the Native Women’s Association of the NWT, also addressed the assembly about the inquiry.

“We can announce to you today that the Native Women’s Association, in partnership with the GNWT Department of Justice, has been funded to establish two family information liaison units in the North – one in Yellowknife and one in Inuvik,” said Pieper. “These offices are now open and will serve all regions of the Northwest Territories to provide information and emotional support to family members whose loved ones have been murdered or are missing.”

Francyne Joe, the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, noted that organization worked with families for decades to get the inquiry established.

“We do hope that this inquiry is going to start showing leadership and being more inclusive of families,” said Joe, who is from British Columbia. “So we hope that rather than having a restart, a reset, we want to see a restructure from the commissioners at the inquiry.”