Commissioner Brian Eyolfson (left to right), commissioner Marilyn Poitras, chief commissioner Marion Buller of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, commissioner Michele Audette, commissioner Qajaq Robinson and Susan Vella, lead legal counsel for the commission, hold a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, February 7, 2017. The inquiry will be in Iqaluit Monday to begin four days of hearings. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press) The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has touched down in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where commissioners will hear from knowledge keepers and experts on the topic of colonial violence.
Socio-economic, health, and wellness impacts are expected to take centre stage at the four-day hearings, being held at the city’s Frobisher Inn. It’s the first of four final hearings scheduled for the inquiry, which has a deadline of Dec. 31 for research and statement-gathering.
Commissioner Qajaq Robinson, who is from Nunavut and spent much of her life in Iqaluit, says it’s important for the inquiry to return to the territory. Commissioners previously heard from survivors and families in Rankin Inlet in February.
"One thing we’ve heard across the country, but in particular from Nunavut, is the impact of rapid change on communities, on families, on social structure," she said. "How governments came in, and how the introduction of alcohol and different factors really had an impact on people and families. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Commissioner Qajaq Robinson speaks at the Membertou First Nation. Robinson, who is from Nunavut, said it’s important for the inquiry to spend time in Nunavut to get a first-hand look at the issues at play within the territory. "We’ve also heard a tremendous amount about the lack of services. How women, girls, and children are in violent situations and there’s no place to flee, there’s really no help that anyone can get."
Survivors and families won’t be testifying at this week’s hearings. Instead, the commissioners will speak with stakeholders and experts, including representatives from Inuit organizations and cultural revitalization groups. The inquiry is expected to take lessons learned from those previous hearings and use them to inform the discussion.
"Hearing more about the causes, the systemic issues at play, but also solutions," Robinson said. "It’s really about getting a better understanding of what the causes are." ‘Our communities need to change the mentality’
Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone said he’s happy to see the inquiry return to the territory, though he wishes there was time for testimony from survivors and families.
Arreak Lightstone’s sister and two daughters were killed in 2011 in a widely-suspected case of murder-suicide, and he has championed changes to the territory’s domestic violence policy in the territory’s legislature. Nunavut MLA tables never-before-seen report on preventing domestic violence-related deaths
Arreak Lightstone, who will be at the hearings, says that domestic violence is still a taboo issue across the territory, and he’s hoping the hearings will help bring the topic back into focus. Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone is happy that the hearings are in Iqaluit. Arreak Lightstone, who lost his sister and nieces to domestic violence, says that he hopes bringing the issue to the forefront will help reduce the stigma surrounding it in Nunavut. (Nick Murray/CBC) "The more the topic is brought up, the better," he said. "Because the more the topic is brought up, the more likely it would be that the public would speak out against those abusers."
"Every time I come across a woman in the grocery store with black eyes, or obvious injuries, the first thing that comes to mind is it’s most likely domestic violence related, and it just tears […]
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