Questions linger as MMIWG inquiry completes community hearings

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls wrapped up its community hearings Sunday with a series of question marks hanging over its head.

Will it get the two-year extension it wants from the federal government?

When will it commence institutional hearings and expert panels?

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller was able to answer some of those questions Sunday in Richmond, B.C. where roughly 100 witnesses were expected to have testified over five days.

“We haven’t heard anything about the extension,” she said of the request last month to the Trudeau government for another two years and $50 million.

So she said it would be business as usual until they hear otherwise.

“We’re moving forward with our work plan that we’ve already established,” she added.

That means collecting statements from survivors and families until April 20. A deadline, she says, that was set months earlier to give the four commissioners time to review all the information before compiling their recommendations to government by the end of the year.

The next question: Will the inquiry get the cash injection it needs to complete its existing work after revealing last month it was running a deficit?

Buller says yes.

“We anticipate that we’ll be able to negotiate further funding from Ottawa,” she said, noting they need “roughly 10 per cent of their budget” to finish up.

Meanwhile, Buller said the institutional hearings will look very different from what Canadians have seen so far.

She has the power to subpoena top officials in policing, Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments, and child welfare across the country.

Those officials will be called before commissioners to answer questions about their processes and procedures that have come under fire so far.

“We’re going to be putting the truths that we’ve heard in this part (of the inquiry) to people in (those positions),” she said.

“I can request or order people to attend.”

Meanwhile, if the extension does come through, Buller said her team has a few locations in mind for the next community hearings. To date, the inquiry has held 15 hearings.

She said southern Ontario is among the locations.

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