Jamie Lee Hamilton: Federal refusal of inquiry's request will compromise safety of Indigenous women and girls

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      It is deeply troubling that the federal Liberal government has denied the extension and additional funding requested by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

      My commission counsel at the inquiry, Breen Ouellette, has resigned over this development and one of the commissioners, Michele Audette, is taking the next few weeks to consider her options, which could also include resigning. This would leave only three commissioners and this would create a significant amount of problems.

      I testified at great risk to myself, considering I named names, and so safety obviously plays a huge factor in my profound disappointment in the decision to not grant the extension and more funding for the inquiry to do its work.

      My concern is not only about my own personal safety but it goes to the fundamental core of the purpose of the commission itself.

      It seems that safety now will be forever compromised for Indigenous women and girls in society who were relying on the inquiry to make strong statements and recommendations regarding the violence we endure. And this will create untold harm, which is preventable.

      And this untold harm will create enormous costs to society, and the fallout and subsequent horrendous impacts will be long-lasting.

      Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said in her opening remarks at the commission hearings held here that she wanted Canadians to help rewrite history and chart a new path toward truth and reconciliation.

      Chief Commissioner Buller heard my testimony and I placed my complete faith and trust in her that she would not fail the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. I believed and still do that Chief Commissioner Buller will fully honour the memories of our dear and lost loved ones.

      My trust and faith in Chief Commissioner Marion Buller was cemented when she informed me just before I was to provide evidence that she and my late mother worked closely together in their younger years and early years of the Aboriginal-rights movement. When Ms. Buller shared this story with me I was brought to tears.

      It seems though that getting at the truth is being lost in favour of political expediency as Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has denied the commission of inquiry's request.

      Bennett has stated that certain stakeholders would not support an extension and wanted the commission to wrap up its work before it is complete.

      Who are these stakeholders? Bennett owes it to the public to fully disclose who they are and why they are opposed to the commission of inquiry continuing its work.

      And how can the commission's work be complete if there are still so many families and institutions not yet heard?

      Plus with the tight timeline given to the commission, how is it possible for it to provide a full detailing of its findings and recommendations? A rushed report is going to overlook many key findings and this is deeply troubling. Canadians should be alarmed.

      I am going to reach out to Chief Commissioner Buller and ask for a meeting.

      And I am hopeful that my commission counsel Breen Ouellette is given permission by Chief Commissioner Buller to speak with those of us whom he represented.

      Ouellette has not resigned hastily. I suspect it was a heart-wrenching decision for him and I am hoping Ms. Buller will allow him to meet with those of us whom he represented in order to explain why he was compelled to take the action that he took.

      Jamie Lee Hamilton is a Vancouver advocate for sex workers and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.