MMIW families losing faith in Liberal government as inquiry keeps getting delayed

“We’re being left in the dark.”

Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
OTTAWA – Laurie Odjick was always on the fence about an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Uncertain if it would give families the closure or help they needed, she put her faith in the Liberal government.

She’s losing that faith.

Odjick wants answers from Indigenous Affairs Minsiter Carolyn Bennett on what’s taking so long to announcing the inquiry.

“(Bennett) needs to give faith back to the families, ‘cause she’s losing it,” said Odjick, whose daughter Maisy, 16, went vanished in 2008 with her friend Shannon Alexander, 17, from Kitigan Zibi First Nation about an hour north of Ottawa. “We’re being left in the dark.”

Maisy Odjick, 16, before she disappeared. SQ photo
Maisy Odjick, 16, before she disappeared. SQ photo
Shannon Alexander, 17, before she disappeared. SQ photo
Shannon Alexander, 17, before she disappeared. SQ photo

Odjick said INAC told her to be ready for an announcement on July 6 – and she took that to mean the government was going to announce the inquiry, a promise made by the Liberals.

Then she got an email saying it was postponed.

“And that’s it,” she said.

The silence since then has been deafening for her and all the other families she speaks to online – they all have the same question: When is the inquiry going to be announced?

Beverly Jacobs, who penned a report on missing and murdered women for Amnesty International in 2004,  and also served as the president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada from 2004 to 2009, chose not to run again after one of her own family members was murdered.

Jacobs did however remain connected to the families she worked closely with up to today.  She said they keep writing her for updates.

“They want to know what’s going on,” said Jacobs Tuesday.

What’s known is there was supposed to be an announcement on July 6 then the province of Manitoba threw a stick in the spokes.

They wouldn’t sign off on the inquiry’s terms of reference and wanted a commissioner from Manitoba to be on the inquiry.

Bennett told APTN last week that before the inquiry can be announced all provinces and territories have to sign off on the terms of reference and commissioners, which was believed to be five. It’s not known if that number has changed since Manitoba’s demands. It is also unknown if Manitoba is the only province holding up the process.

But for Odjick the question remains, if the provinces were not on board, why did INAC promise families the announcement was good to go for July 6?

Odjick says details should have all been sorted out before telling the families to be ready.

“That’s a big question I’d like answered. Why doesn’t Manitoba want to sign?” said Odjick, adding she also questions why families weren’t involved in the terms of reference and picking the commissioners.

But getting down to brass tacks Odjick doesn’t think families should even have to be asking these questions.

“We should be informed. (Bennett) says ‘families first’ but we are not first,” she said. “We need to be involved. No one is helping us. These politicians need to be held to their promises.”

Chiefs in Manitoba met with Manitoba’s Indigenous Affairs and Justice ministers Tuesday to find out why Manitoba is holding up the inquiry. Details of that meeting are expected later Tuesday.

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Investigative Reporter

Kenneth is a journalist with nearly two decades of reporting experience who focuses on crime and social issues, including child welfare and wrongful convictions. He has worked out of APTN’s Ottawa bureau since October 2012.