News / Ottawa

Feds pledge help for stalled inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women

The head commissioner told a Senate committee Wednesday that the process has been stymied by bureaucracy and an unfeasible deadline.

Commissioners of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Brian Eyolfson, left to right, Marion Buller, Michelle Audette, and Qajaq Robinson appear as witnesses at a house of commons committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

Commissioners of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Brian Eyolfson, left to right, Marion Buller, Michelle Audette, and Qajaq Robinson appear as witnesses at a house of commons committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The federal government is pledging to help after the chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls testified that the inquiry has too little time— and is forced to deal with too much red tape— to get its work done.

The inquiry has struggled to get started, holding only one hearing so far.

Speaking to the Senate’s committee on Aboriginal peoples Wednesday night, Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said that the government rules and regulations (like those around hiring) have caused delays.

“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.”

Speaking to a house committee studying the issue Thursday, she said the delays cut into time they do not have.

“Time is always ticking for us, so if it take a month or two months to get a computer or if it takes a month or two months to hire something,” she said. “Every day counts, every delay is bigger for us than it is for a government department.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office responded to the concerns in an email Thursday.

“We have made the necessary resources available to the Commission and if there are any barriers to those resources being accessed — they will be resolved,” they said. “The Privy Council Office is already in contact with the Commission to find solutions to these issues.”

The inquiry is expected to file an interim report later this month, despite having held only one public hearing, and is 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, yet.

“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, in public hearings, or even through statement takers— staff who will go to the victims, regardless of where they are, to hear their testimony.

More on Metronews.ca