News / Ottawa

MMIW inquiry commissioners tell Senate committee they're struggling with timeline, bureaucracy

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said government rules and regulations, like those around hiring, have delayed them from getting started.

Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Fred Chartrand / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The lead commissioner for the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women told Senators Wednesday the inquiry is constrained by both time and bureaucracy as it works toward its goal.

The inquiry looking into the high rates of Indigenous women who are murdered or go missing has struggled to get started. There have been several calls from Indigenous groups to reset or restart the inquiry.

Speaking to the Senate’s committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said government rules and regulations, like those around hiring, have delayed them from getting started.

She said it can take four to six months to hire someone, which given the inquiry’s short time frame is a major problem.

“Those policies and procedures work very well in government, but they do not work well in our inquiry.”

Buller said there are ways to improve the process, but so far the government hasn’t reached out.

“I’m happy to share those with government if and when they ever ask.”

The inquiry is expected to file an interim report later this month, despite having held only one public hearing and is currently scheduled to file a full report at the end of 2018.  

While commissioner Michèle Audette has raised the idea of an extension, Buller said the inquiry has not formally asked for one and will diligently work to finish on the current timeline, but it is a challenge.

“We can do a much better job with more time.”

Buller said the inquiry will go only to communities where they are welcomed and intend to take a “trauma-informed” process so the inquiry doesn’t do any more harm.

She said the inquiry can take submissions privately or in public hearings or even through statement takers, which are staff who will go to the victims, regardless of where they are, to hear testimony.

The inquiry has lost one commissioner already – Marilyn Poitras – and Sen. Patrick Brazeau asked if all the commissioners were still fully committed to the process.

All of the commissioners said it had been a challenge, but they were committed. Commissioner Qajaq Robinson said she wouldn’t let down the families she has already met.

“We have families who say 'I don’t get to quit' and I won’t either.”

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