The Yukon was the only jurisdiction in Canada to not send a government official to the conclusion of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, adding that she wasn’t informed that representatives from each province and territory would be called on during the closing ceremony on June 3.
“The invitation was to me, to Government of Yukon.”
Ministers or an assistant deputy minister from every provincial and territorial government except the Yukon attended the ceremony to receive a copy of the report.
Dendys said she was unaware someone could have gone in her place.
“If I had known that, I would have sent someone. There’s no question. We thought we were doing the right thing. We made the decision at the committee level. We had Yukon people there.”
Dendys, Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill and Ann Maje Raider, the executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, are co-chairs of the Yukon Advisory Council. It’s a group that worked closely with the inquiry.
Maje Raider and family members of missing or murdered Yukon Indigenous women and girls were at the closing ceremony that was hosted in Gatineau, Que.
The report, which was released then, found that the level of violence Indigenous women and girls face amounts to genocide. It says the number of dead Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) people is in the “thousands.”
Dendys, Premier Sandy Silver and others were in Dawson City for a caucus retreat around the time of the official release of the report and closing ceremony.
The retreat took the form of the Commissioner’s Ball and Tea on June 1 followed by caucus meetings on June 3 and 4.
These were commitments Dendys said she couldn’t change.
“The plans were in place. It was a big struggle. It’s just unfortunate that it worked out that way.
“This is so important to our people,” she continued. “If there’s a file that’s most important going forward for our Indigenous people in Yukon and Canada, it’s this one. It just is.”
She said the report was initially supposed to be released at the end of April, and that it coming out when it did caused an unshakeable scheduling conflict.
“Absolutely, I would have been there,” Dendys said. “I watched the ceremony this morning up until 8:30 a.m. and my spirit was there with them. I’ve worked really hard to support the inquiry all the way through and I went to many of the hearings throughout Canada.”
Cabinet spokesperson Lisa Bucher said in a written statement that Maje Raider “attended the event to represent the Yukon.”
Maje Raider told the News that it’s all right that Dendys wasn’t at the closing ceremony.
“She may have not been here, but any disappointments we have, she is certainly forgiven, because we know and we just trust and we know that she will work harder again,” said Maje Raider, adding that the minister has “worked tirelessly on this issue.”
“We have faith,” she continued. “If something’s going to be done with this report it’s going to come from the Yukon.”
The more than 1,200-page document contains 231 calls for justice and is the result of two-and-a-half years of work that saw the inquiry travelling across the country to hear the testimonies of more than 2,380 families, survivors, knowledge-keepers and elders.
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org