Raw, emotional testimony heard at first day of MMIWG public hearings
- Chelsea Laskowski | November 21, 2017
The first day of Saskatoon public hearings at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls started off with the sharing of traumatic stories from two families.
Public hearings are taking place in two separate rooms at the same time, with more than 80 people registered to testify over the course of three days at the Sheraton Hotel.
Gwenda Yuzicappi of Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation spoke about her daughter Amber Redman’s 2005 disappearance after a night at Trapper’s Bar in Fort Qu’Appelle. Redman’s body was not found until 2008 after years of searches, awareness walks, and prayers. The following year, Redman’s murderer pleaded guilty and will be eligible for parole in 2024.
Yuzicappi, speaking to Commissioner Brian Eyolfson with about 15 others present in the room, described respectful, positive interactions with police throughout the investigation. At one point, she was granted a request to deal with a female, Indigenous officer.
In the next room over, Nadine Machiskinic’s aunt Delores Stevenson described a very different, negative experience with police. Stevenson spoke on how officials lacked accountability at every level of the investigation into Machiskinic’s fatal 10-storey fall from a laundry chute at Regina’s Delta Hotel in early 2015. Due to Stevenson’s tireless advocacy, her niece’s case has included a death inquest finding that opposed the coroner’s official cause of death, a coroner’s office review, a public complaints commission investigation, and media probes into the 60-hour delay in police investigating Machiskinic’s death.
All that work has come at an emotional cost, Stevenson told Chief Commissioner Marion Buller and a room of about 60 people.
“It’s been traumatizing, it’s been very traumatizing to have to take my family through this over and over and over,” Stevenson said, her voice wavering as she spoke.
Both Stevenson and Yuzicappi cried at different times during their sessions, which were about an hour for Machiskinic’s family and over two hours for Redman’s family. Yuzicappi paused and wiped tears as she spoke about the day she was notified that her daughter’s remains had been found.
“My hope that I had grasped and held onto for so long was gone. My daughter wasn’t coming home,” she said.
The hardest part, she said, was being in the same room as her daughter’s killer as court revealed the dark details surrounding her death. One of her recommendations for the inquiry is to work for people to come forward when they hear rumours in order to help investigations.
Stevenson had many recommendations for the inquiry, including a call for family advocacy planning so that they don’t have to go it on their own.
“Families are fighting to get real investigations and real access to justice, they have to become full-time advocates,” she said, adding that she’s had to “invest everything at the expense of system that is not taking our loved one seriously.”
When speaking to reporters afterwards, Stevenson said she hopes her testimony well help set the tone for the inquiry.
In a true show of kindness, Machiskinic’s mother Laura Apooch asked media to let people know she is thankful for everyone who is attending the hearing.
Over the week, there are expected to be over 32 public sessions.