More hearings mean more controversy for Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
Commissioners are scheduled to begin hearing from “expert” witnesses in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Sunday, after a short break over the summer.
But groups with standing to question those witnesses say they haven’t been provided the money to get there.
And they blame the inquiry.
“The price of airfare one week to the next went up by $700,” says Suzan Fraser, a Toronto lawyer who represents a coalition of MMIWG families.
“It costs thousands of dollars to fly there and stay in hotels. My clients don’t have the money for that.”
She said she won’t be attending.
Fraser says about 50 parties are in the same boat.
They’re dependent on the inquiry, she says, which, in turn, is waiting for the money to be released from the Privy Council Office.
A spokesperson for the inquiry confirmed commissioners had to make a request for funding for this phase of the inquiry.
That’s because they used up their $53-million budget and were refused the two-year extension they wanted.
They were given an extra six months and told to request further funding.
Fraser said the situation is hurting groups like hers, who may be prevented from participating.
“There are a lot of steps to get their funding,” she said.
“I was hoping it would be different this time.”
Fraser, who has deep experience working with public commissions, said inquiries “have a duty of procedural fairness.”
Another group, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, is paying from its own pocket to get representatives to Iqaluit.
“We have made an exception,” said president Rebecca Kudloo.
“We are sending our lawyer and a board member. It’s that important.”
The experts will be speaking on colonial violence, said inquiry spokeswoman Nadine Gros-Louis.
Gros-Louis released the list of names Wednesday in response to an email from APTN News.
“The national inquiry is working with the government of Canada on budget for the six-month extension, including additional funds for parties with standing,” she said in an email.
After Iqaluit (Sept. 10-13), the inquiry will be in Quebec City (Sept. 17-21), Winnipeg (Oct. 1-5) and St. John’s, NL (Oct. 15-18).
Kudloo says her group couldn’t miss the hearing after pressuring the inquiry to make more stops in Nunavut, which she says has the highest rate of domestic violence in Canada.
“We have been lobbying for Inuit voices to be included,” she added in a telephone interview.
Fraser said she heard from the inquiry late Wednesday night that it had applied for a new “contribution agreement.”
She was unable to reveal how much money they were seeking.