APTN National News
Officials with the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) have been in contact with the office of Ontario’s police watchdog over its ongoing probe into the Thunder Bay police’s handling of nine cases involving murdered and missing women from the city.
Lead MMIW commission counsel Susan Vella has reached out to Independent Police Review Director Gerry McNeilly’s office’s on the issue as it dovetails with the inquiry’s own review of police conduct on MMIW cases, said Bernée Bolton, the inquiry’s director of communication.
“The national inquiry continues to follow (McNeilly’s) investigation regarding the handling of nine death investigations concerning Indigenous women and girls by the Thunder Bay police with great interest,” said Bolton, in an emailed statement. “At this time, we will not be offering further comment regarding the context of communication between McNeilly’s office and the national inquiry because these are active investigations.”
McNeilly said in an interview with APTN National News this week that the nine murdered and missing Indigenous women cases primarily stem from 2009 to the present. McNeilly said the nine cases are part of a total of 39 Thunder Bay death cases going back to the 1990s his office is reviewing as part of a wide-ranging probe of the city’s police force over allegations of systemic racism.
“The national inquiry is very aware of the situation in Thunder Bay,” said Bolton.
The inquiry sent a small team of legal, health and community relations officials to Thunder Bay this week to meet with family members and survivors. The team held one-on-one meetings with families and survivors.
The inquiry originally planned to hold full community hearings this week in the city, but it postponed the event to the week of Dec. 4, 2017.
The inquiry has been beset by numerous setbacks, including the high profile resignation of top officials and one of its commissioners Marilyn Poitras.
Sue Montgomery, the inquiry’s former director of communications, told APTN host Dennis Ward Friday that the commissioners should “stop the process right now and come up with a detailed plan and schedule.”
Montgomery said the inquiry has suffered from a lack of leadership.
However, the remaining inquiry commissioners have dismissed criticisms and calls for a reset, choosing instead to push on.
The inquiry has the support of Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde. Bellegarde, along with Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron and British Columbia chiefs, short-circuited an attempt by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas to pass a resolution calling for the replacement of the inquiry commissioners during the organization’s annual general assembly in Regina this past July.