Request for 2nd set of Sask. MMIWG inquiry hearings goes unheeded, upcoming Nunavut hearing postponed as Saskatoon hearings close
- Chelsea Laskowski | November 24, 2017
The request was sent to the commissioners
from the inquiry’s Saskatchewan Community Leads, groups like Eskwewuk E-wichiwitochik and Prince Albert Grand Council, who say there is not enough time this week and the distances are too far for some to travel to Saskatoon. However, by the time the week-long testimony closed on Thursday evening at the Sheraton Hotel, no such announcement had been made. Instead, the MMIWG Inquiry announced it would be postponing its Rankin Inlet, Nunuvut hearings which were scheduled to start Dec. 11.
Okemaysim-Sicotte said she was disappointed not to hear anything new about Saskatchewan. She said she had hoped the commissioners would take the opportunity to repair negative energy that’s been bred by the loss of a large number of inquiry staffers in recent weeks.
She maintains hope that the commissioners have now seen how capable and persistent Saskatchewan supports are, that the region is “being patient still and they still want it to work” and will respond accordingly when they head to next week’s hearing in Quebec.
Okemaysim-Sicotte testified in-camera earlier this week about her cousin Shelley Napope’s murder in 1992, and helped organize a Wednesday evening round dance at TCU Place that provided a healthy outlet for people like Barb Badger who was also Napope’s relative and had earlier testified about her murder.
“This is part of our way of also releasing a lot of that hurt and pain and also celebrating Shelley. She loved round dances, she loved powwows. This was for her,” Badger said.
When it comes to emotional and mental health support now and in the coming days, Badger said she is happy with the list of available supports detailed in an aftercare package that is given to all who testify at the inquiry. She said she found it easy to navigate, and she plans to make use of the supports because “I’m human like everybody else. I need to take care of me too.”
Behind the scenes, the Sask. Community Leads who are providing emotional and logistical support work during the inquiry have been struggling in the wake of the firing of the inquiry’s Saskatchewan community liaison. The fired staffer, Morene Gabriel, had been critical of the inquiry’s aftercare plan. Much of the support work in Saskatoon this week, including the planning of the TCU Place round dance and a debriefing space with programming and Elder support at Saskatoon’s Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, was organized solely by local people. The round dance was done by the Community Leads, and the Friendship Centre by concerned citizens who only secured partial funding from the inquiry itself at the last minute.
Melodie Casella, health manager for the inquiry, said they have internal resources with inquiry staff as well as contracted services that are working during the hearings. People wearing purple shirts were on site to offer immediate support in Saskatoon.
Casella said inquiry staff will be the only ones to continue on developing aftercare plans with families. She said the inquiry is able to research and fund travel to connect people with services.
However, the inquiry’s interim report says it needs more funding and support from the federal government in order to provide supports that do not have a time limit.
“I can tell you that we’re very concerned about aftercare and have been from the very beginning of this national inquiry,” Buller said.
“We know it’s critical. We see it in their faces we hear it everyday and so those are the reasons why we made those recommendations asking the government to open up and provide more aftercare for families.”