APTN National News
OTTAWA—Tears flowed and old pain surfaced Thursday as the families of murdered and missing Indigenous women were forced to select their representatives for a roundtable Friday with federal and provincial politicians.
The process left many family members shaken, said C.J Julian, sister of Norma George who was found murdered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 1992.
“I just think what they did was re-victimize the families by picking four ceremonial witnesses for the national roundtable. It felt like we had to go against each other… I saw a lot of people walk away with heavy hearts,” said Julian. “It was like we all went against each other. It was like lateral violence. We had to pick looking at each other.”
The families of the murdered and missing were told they could only pick four people to attend the national roundtable. The were told to pick delegates representing the four directions: North, South, East and West.
Julian was not one of the delegates selected to attend the roundtable which will be held at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Ottawa. She will be part of a parallel gathering for families and the public at Carleton University.
Friday’s roundtable meeting will be chaired by Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod and attended by provincial leaders, including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn.
Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch are scheduled to attend Friday’s meeting.
Representatives from Indigenous organizations will also attend the roundtable, which will be closed to the public.
Families gathered Thursday at the Delta Hotel to select their delegates for Friday’s meeting.
Some of the family members wept after realizing they would not get a chance to share their voice and pain at the national roundtable.
Bev Jacobs, who is from Six Nations and a former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, was picked as one of the delegates.
Jacobs said each of the representatives would only be able to speak for four minutes at the roundtable. She said she would reflect the pain and tears from the family members at Thursday’s meeting.
“I’m going to share their pain. I’m going to tell them what I am seeing right now,” said Jacobs. “I’m going to share their voice.”
Jacobs said she was against the roundtable from the beginning arguing it would just hurt families again.
“I’m disappointed in the process. I don’t know who designed it, but it’s not respectful of the families,” she said.
Jacobs said she’s like to see a Royal Commission.
The other delegates selected to represent the families at the roundtable included: Judy Maas, from Blueberry River in British Columbia, whose sister Cynthia Mass was killed in 2010 in Prince George, B.C.; Darlene Osborne, from Norway House Cree Nation, Man., and the cousin of Helen Betty Osborne who was kidnapped and murdered in The Pas, Man., in 1971; Diane Lilley, whose 21-year-old sister Cindy Burk was murdered along the Highway of Tears in 1990.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is personally against a public inquiry and has told two successive Assembly of First Nations national chiefs he won’t be calling one.