Commissioner Marion Buller speaks at the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Whitehorse on May 31, 2017. The inquiry has been given a six-month extension. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Yukon women’s group has mixed feelings about MMIWG inquiry extension

The president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council believes the inquiry will return to Yukon as promised

The president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council (YAWC) says a six-month extension for Canada’s Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is not what she was hoping for “but at least it’s something.”

The council wrote a letter in support of the inquiry’s request for a two-year extension to complete its final report. Earlier this week the federal government said it would give a six-month extension. The inquiry will now have until April 30, 2019 to submit its report, instead of the initial date of Nov. 1, 2018.

“I am glad we did get some sort of extension,” YAWC president Doris Anderson said June 5.

“It’s not what we wanted but it is something to work with and hopefully something positive will come out of it.”

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, called the extension a “creative solution” that allows the terms of reference to be honoured in all of the provinces and the territories, meaning the commission will have to complete its research and witness testimony by Dec. 31.

Bennett said the decision to extend the mandate by just six months was made in part because provinces and territories were not unanimously supportive of extending the terms of reference for the inquiry into next year.

In a statement, chief commissioner Marion Buller said “political expediency has been placed before the safety of Indigenous women, girls and (LGBTQ and two-spirit) people.”

Whitehorse hosted the first hearings of the inquiry last year. After just the first day Buller told reporters that the commission would “definitely” be coming back to the Yukon.

Even with only a six-month extension, Anderson said she is taking Buller’s word for it that the commission will be back.

Anderson said the need for the hearings keeps growing.

“We have people who are now coming out that weren’t really stepping up before. Nobody was really sure what the inquiry was and now they’ve seen it, they’ve seen some of the … positive changes that have happened across Canada.”

The Yukon’s family information liaison unit, a federal program designed to help families after the inquiry leaves, has been “quite active in trying to get some healing happening for the families,” she said.

That program is only slated to last two years. Anderson said she hopes that “out of this inquiry there will be enough dollars set aside to assist families who live in the communities.”

She said hasn’t heard anything from inquiry officials about when they might be coming back.

“One of the things that I hope they do follow through on is that they contact us directly rather than go through the Yukon government or (Council of Yukon First Nations). I hope they keep their word and contact us directly,” she said, adding that her organization has direct contact with families.

Anderson said the commission “needs to complete this important work and make strong recommendations for positive change.”

With files from CP

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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