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‘Bittersweet’ reaction to MMIWG inquiry deeming deaths and disappearances a genocide

British Columbia

'Bittersweet' reaction to MMIWG inquiry deeming deaths and disappearances a genocide

For many British Columbians, a new report deeming the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous women and girls a “Canadian genocide” could not come soon enough.

National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women report took more than two years to complete

The faces of some of the Indigenous women and girls who have vanished or have been murdered in Canada in recent decades. (CBC News)

For many British Columbians, a new report deeming the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous women and girls a “Canadian genocide” could not come soon enough.

The national inquiry into the ongoing tragedy, two-and-a-half years and $92 million in the making, culminated in a final report that was set to be released on Monday. CBC obtained a copy earlier.

“Our families have been fighting for this for so long and it's coming to an end,” said Lorelei Williams, who testified at the national inquiry.

“I'm definitely feeling emotional.”

Lorelei Williams is one of the many family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls who testified. She said testifying was so hard it became a challenge to even get out of bed. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Her cousin Tanya Holyk's DNA was found on the farm of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton. Her aunt, Belinda Williams, went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside more than 40 years ago.

Since 2017, the inquiry has held 24 hearings and events to gather statements from people like Williams across the country. More than 2,380 Canadians attended those events.

“It's been a very, very hard process,” Williams told CBC's B.C. Today

“Now, it's coming to an end but our women are still going missing and being murdered at a high rate.”

Some estimates have suggested roughly 4,000 Indigenous women have been murdered or have disappeared over the past few decades.

The inquiry report said the true number may be impossible to establish.

Not just numbers

For Mary Teegee, executive director of Child and Family Services for Carrier Sekani, the data doesn't tell the full story.

“The report talks about the atrocities and it talks about genocide, which is very real, but we can't forget that all the statistics is somebody's daughter, somebody's child, somebody's cousin, somebody's friend,” she said.

Her cousin Ramona is among those murdered along Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears.

“It's a vindication and I welcome this report. I'm glad that it has been completed, but definitely there's a lot of bittersweet feelings,” Teegee said.

“We could have been doing this decades ago.”

Mary Teegee's cousin Ramona is among those who were murdered along Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Calls for action

The report runs to over 1,200 pages and includes more than 230 recommendations.

Judy Wilson, Chief of the Neskonlith and Union of BC Indian Chief's Executive Member, said she hopes the report will lead to immediate action. 

“It's really timely with this report because we need to get on with the actions,” said Wilson, whose sister was murdered.

She wants to see concrete change before the fall election. “We're dealing with it in every day of our lives,” she said.

“It's hard to find anyone that is not affected in some way or another — our family is most definitely affected with the murder of my young sister at the age of 21.”

With files from B.C. Today

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