The staff of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will be in Smithers beginning on Monday, July 17 to consult with First Nations and other members of the Highway 16 communities.
The full Truth Gathering Process community hearings will begin in Smithers on September 25 for one week.
Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen commented, “The announcement that the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) will soon stop in Smithers is good news for families along the Highway of Tears who have lost loved ones to violence.
“It is absolutely essential for inquiry commissioners to travel to Northwest BC to hear directly from families along the Highway of Tears, Cullen said. “Reading statements and stories online or by letter does not have the same impact nor impart the very real dangers that First Nations women and girls face when travelling between remote, rural Highway 16 communities.”
In a news release July 6, (pdf) Chief Commissioner Marion Buller announced that “the National Inquiry is moving forward on the advice and guidance heard from families, survivors and grassroots organizations about how best to hear their stories of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including LGBTQ2S people. This next step is rooted in the knowledge gained from meetings that took place across Canada, with the latest being from the hearings in Whitehorse in May/June 2017.”
At Smithers and other locations the preliminary meetings will allow staff to participate in community visits to lay the groundwork for the hearings as part of the National Inquiry’s Truth Gathering Process.
Community visits allow:
- the health team and legal counsel to meet with family members and survivors to prepare them for the community
- the community relations team to meet with local organizations, Indigenous groups and women’s groups to learn more
about local issues regarding violence against Indigenous women and girls, including LGBTQ2S people
- the logistics team to conduct site visits for the upcoming hearings;
- National Inquiry staff to seek the advice and guidance from Elders and knowledge keepers so that when we return to the
community hearings we may respect and include local protocols and ceremonies.
For individuals and families who wish to participate in the hearings, the inquiry has set up a six step process that is outlined on their website.
How to participate in the MMIWG hearings (pdf)
Cullen says he hopes last Thursday’s announcement of the second round of community visits and hearings by commissioners opens the door to a more productive and collaborative process.
“There have been many challenges to getting the work of the inquiry off the ground, directly including families in the work, and developing a sufficiently broad mandate to allow real understanding of the deeper issues of violence against Indigenous women and girls,” he said.
“The inquiry’s recognition of the need to hold hearings in Smithers is very positive.