Lawyers representing the Quebec Native Women’s Association at an inquiry examining the relationship between some of the province’s public services and Indigenous peoples have quit citing the fact that there isn’t enough money to continue.
“The reason is not that we have any issues with our client it is just that there is no funding for us to continue to come here to Val d’Or and participate in the Commission,” lawyer Rainbow Miller told Inquiry Justice Jacques Viens.
Miller said her firm received some money in Sept. but it only covered fees for three weeks – so they asked for more.
“What they are telling us that they will give us another funding that will cover three other weeks of hearing and that is final,” she said. “So this is why we are presenting a request this morning because we cannot continue representing them if there is no funding to pay for all our expenses.”
According to the province, the Quebec Native Women’s Association received $20,000 initially for lawyer’s fees, and was promised another $20,000 – but no more.
Justice Jacques Viens said he had no choice but to accept the motion and said the commission had no jurisdiction when it comes to how much the province pays for lawyers.
The chief council for the Quebec inquiry said the government cannot interfere with the inquiry.
“The public inquiry is independent of the government,” said Christian Leblanc. “And that independence means that the government cannot interfere in what is our jurisdiction and it is the same on the other side.
“This is the part where we do not get involved we do not get involved with the way the organization finance the lawyer that they want to hire we do not have any power in that on how they will finance their legal representations.”
The president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association said she is disappointed with the decision – and disagrees that the government has a responsibility to ensure all parties are represented.
“The Quebec government is still responsible,” said Viviane Michel. “We set up a commission, we are very present as an organization and it is essential that we be there.
Michel said her organization will continue its efforts to ensure their presence at the inquiry.
The Quebec Native Women’s Association was instrumental in getting the Quebec inquiry up and running after a number of women alleged that provincial police offices abused them sexually and physically.
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