Across Canada families missing mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters and aunts will begin telling their stories as the national inquiry gets underway today in Whitehorse.
The Saskatchewan Aboriginal Woman’s Circle Corporation (SAWCC) is building a comprehensive list of names of women who either went missing or were murdered and paying close attention to police files which have either been deemed suspicious or closed.
Judy Hughes, the president of SAWCC said the list contains roughly 150 names - so far the organization has registered 16 families to attend inquiry hearings in Saskatchewan.
Hughes said some families which want to attend the inquiry have had issues registering through the government's inquiry website.
“Some families have said they’ve tried to register numerous times but the website doesn’t work properly,” Hughes said. “If they do get through and put their name on the website they’re not getting a response back to say their registration has been received.”
She said even the 16 families who have registered through SAWCC received letters confirming their applications have been accepted, but there is nothing confirming if the families are officially registered to speak.
In April, the Prince Albert Grand Council’s Women’s Commission hosted a family day gathering where people could register for inquiry hearings. Thirteen families registered at the gathering.
Shirley Henderson, the director of the women’s commission, said she’s lobbying for the inquiry to visit the gateway to the North.
“We haven’t done so yet, but we’re planning on inviting them in [to Prince Albert],” Henderson said. “Prince Albert is the central location to the North… It’s easier to get to Prince Albert for them than it is to Saskatoon.”
While the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations was on hand during the PAGC Woman’s Commission Family Day event, the federation isn’t currently organizing events to register families for the inquiry.
“[The Regina Treaty and Status Indian Services] is collecting the registrations and sending them to the inquiry office,” Kay Lerat, the executive director of the Woman’s Secretariat from the FSIN said. “We’re supporting RTSIS and PAGC Women.”
Through email, Lerat explained the provincial and territorial governments received a majority of the funding for the national inquiry. Representatives from the FSIN will be meeting with members of the Ministry of Justice in Regina on May 30 to plan how the funding dollars will be spent, including hosting more ‘family day’ type events.
Forty families are slated to speak before the commissioners in Whitehorse, where a sacred fire was lit on May 29 to begin the inquiry process.
The commissioners are examining and reporting on the causes of violence towards Indigenous women by studying practises, policies, and institutions including policing and child welfare.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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