Families Have Chance To Testify At Final Week of MMIW Canada National Inquiry

Photo courtesy Roxana Wilson / Roxana Wilson, whose daughter Adriana Cecil Wadhams was brutally murdered in 1989, testified in Richmond, B.C., for the final public hearings of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women commission.

Families Have Chance To Testify At Final Week of MMIW Canada National Inquiry

Controversy over actual numbers of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Canada's minister for the status of women says MMIW could be as high as 4,000

Several families shared tragic accounts of missing and murdered indigenous women in testimony that began Wednesday in Richmond, British Columbia. This is the final public hearing of the national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Among the family members sharing testimony is Roxana Wilson, who told the CBC about her own daughter Adriana Cecil Wadhams, who was brutally murdered in 1989. “A six-year-old who was so loving, so full of energy and so boisterous,” she said.”I can’t believe the date is finally here to be able to share my story and share her story and give her a voice.”

Lorelei Williams said she is seeking justice for her cousin, Tanya Holyk. Williams’ cousin’s DNA was found on the farm of serial killer Robert Pickton. Williams’ cousin is not the only woman missing in her family, Her aunt Belinda has been missing for 40 years.

Families Are Losing Confidence

Though Williams is offering her own testimony, she is afraid about what might ultimately happen due to all of the red tape related to the Canadian National MMIW Inquiry, and if the end result will be positive due to the firings and resignations.

“I lost all confidence,” said Lorelei Williams to the CBC. “I was on the fence but then I started to teeter toward maybe this inquiry isn’t good.”

Williams said even with all of the problems, the families finally have a chance to share their stories and perhaps some good will come of it. “This is all we’ve got right now, so many Indigenous women’s lives depend on this,” Williams said.

The Chief Commissioner of the MMIW / MMIWG Inquiry Marion Buller told the CBC she can empathize with families who might be losing faith in a system plagued with problems. “I can understand that people would be frustrated and had other expectations, but this is a national inquiry with a strict timeline handling horrible, horrible subject matter,” Buller said. The commission had to “design the car, build the car and drive the car all at the same time…It was very challenging,” Buller added.

After the public hearings, there will be community hearings and institution hearings. The final report must also be translated into several Indigenous languages. The report must be completed by the end of 2018, but Buller has asked the Canadian federal government for an extension. She has not yet received an official response for her request.

An Extension Is Acceptable – “But Canada Needs To Do A Better Job”

Viviane Michel, the president of Quebec Native Women, says the federal inquiry into MMIW / MMIWG needs to do a better job of gathering information for families after observing hearings in Montreal in early March.

In a press conference Michel told reporters that the national inquiry should be put on hold to make more beneficial changes such as using its powers to collect coroner reports, police reports and autopsy results ahead of time so families have a better understanding of the facts.

Michel said she supports the request for an extension made by Buller — but only if changes are made to better support those testifying. “We want justice to be done,” she said.

In 2016, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said that 1,107 indigenous women were killed between 1980 and 2012. But that number is in dispute. Native activists, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and families closer to the matter claim over 4,000 women and girls. The government says it was all but impossible to pinpoint an accurate figure.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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