(Charmaine Desa, also known as Gina Hele with her daughter Jacqueline in 1988. She was murdered in 1990 and her killer has never been found. Photo courtesy of the family.)
APTN National News
Colleen Cardinal was set to fly out to Edmonton from Ottawa this week for regional advisory meetings by the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
But the meetings were abruptly postponed last Thursday. The commission said in a statement it needs more time to be ready for future meetings with families.
“I don’t believe in the inquiry,” said a disappointed Cardinal. “I want to…but there’s so much work to be done.”
The meetings were being held across Canada to seek out input from survivors and families leading up to family hearings set to start at the end of May.
Cardinal has a vested interest in the inquiry. Her sister and sister in law were both murdered.
It’s been almost 30 years since Cardinal’s sister was found dead at a park near downtown Edmonton. Charmaine Desa, also known as Gina Hele, was 20 when she died after being beaten.
Police said she was murdered by a man she met at the park where she was buying pot.
She was married and a mother of two.
Cardinal’s sister-in-law Lynn Jackson was found dead in a ditch in Wetaskiwin, Alta., in 2005. RCMP have labelled her death as “suspicious,” but have no information about her killer.
Cardinal said she met Waneek Horn-Miller, the director of community engagement for the inquiry in Ottawa at a similar meeting. Horn-Miller invited Cardinal to participate in the Edmonton meetings and said all of her expenses would be paid.
Cardinal said she just happened to call Horn-Miller last week to inquire about logistics when she was told the event wasn’t happening.
“I was told it was postponed because families complained it was too short notice and too close to Easter,” said Cardinal who said it sounded more like an excuse and not a good enough reason to put the meeting off.
She had already been feeling anxious about the inquiry, even though it’s something she hoped would happen for many years now.
The postponement has made her misgivings worsen.
Paul Tuccaro was planning to fly to Edmonton from his home in Fort Chipewyan, in northern Alta., to attend the meeting on behalf of his sister Amber Tuccaro.
Amber disappeared in August 2010 during a trip to Edmonton. Her skeletal remains were found two years later in a field near Nisku, just outside the capital city. Her murder remains unsolved.
Tuccaro said it took some time to prepare emotionally to attend the meeting and that even his mother was too upset to go.
“It’s all confusing,” he said about the postponement. “It’s overwhelming. Now imagine all the other people that were planning to go. It’s getting them thinking of their lost loved ones. Now we’re having all these feelings brought up (of our loved ones) only to be told it’s put off until further notice?”
Every day is a roller coaster ride for Eva Potts since her sister Misty Potts went missing in March 2014. Misty was last seen on highway 43 located near her home at Alexis First Nation, Alta.
Eva Potts feels left in the dark she said she didn’t even know about the inquiry meetings.
“I’m really confused about what’s going on,” she said after learning about the meetings on Monday from APTN.
Eva does what she can to keep alive the efforts to find her sister. She has helped to keep Misty’s face in the media and keeps in contact with RCMP on a regular basis for updates on the case.
She said had she known about the meetings, she would’ve gone. Anything to help find her sister.
With the postponement of the meetings she feels it’s important for the inquiry to put together a better communication system for families.
And supports need to be put in place for families impacted by the ups and downs of the inquiry process.
“We’re already hurting on the inside and not everybody knows how to deal with that. The pain can destroy you,” said Eva.
She plans to attend the inquiry meetings when they come back to the area if she is made aware of the details.
Meetings scheduled in Thunder Bay this week were also postponed. There is no word on when the meetings will be rescheduled.
Regional advisory meetings were held in Wendake, QC, Ottawa, Montreal, Alton, Ont., Vancouver and Whitehorse.
The inquiry was launched in September 2016 and commissioners are expected to deliver an interim report in November 2017. The final report is due in November of 2018.