No furniture, no after care at inquiry former employee says - APTN NewsAPTN News

No furniture, no after care at inquiry former employee says

(What appears to be an empty office of the national MMIWG inquiry in Winnipeg. Photo: Kathleen Martens/APTN)

Kathleen Martens
A former manager at the National Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and girls says there is no treatment plan for hurting families.

“There is no aftercare plan; not that I’ve seen,” said Morene Gabriel, who was fired as the Inquiry’s community relations manager for Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The care plan is supposed to be a major plank in the foundation of the Inquiry to ensure families are coping, after emotional and often gut-wrenching testimony.

Commissioners even delayed the long-awaited schedule of hearings to make sure they were following a “trauma-informed” process.

But Gabriel told APTN that she was not allowed to refer people for professional help.

“My concept of after-care is intense therapy, not check-in calls,” she said. “When a family went into crisis, I was on the phone for four hours with them on a Friday night and again the next Saturday morning.

“Everyone was gone for their weekend, the health manager was away. There was no support internally to give me direction on what to do.”

Gabriel said she did her best to look after people with the limited instructions she was given.

She said she developed her own health framework and got to work.

“I’ve had to deal with the tough stuff. I’ve been called out, yelled at, but I gained their respect.”

Gabriel is one of three people fired in the last week. Another two employees resigned in protest.

The inquiry did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

It is scheduled to hear from families in Saskatoon next week and Gabriel is worried about them. She says she checked in with families after she was fired.

“There’s no governance document, no policies, and procedures, no human resources. I don’t know why I was fired.”

Gabriel shared the letter offering her the job to start June 5, 2017.

She also showed APTN News the email telling her she was no longer needed.

“I was never given a reason,” she said, adding co-workers she left behind now tell her they fear for their jobs.

“It was a toxic workplace and this makes it worse. There was lateral violence, gossiping, nepotism, favoritism.”

Gabriel said she sent an email to Chief Commissioner Marion Buller seeking an explanation. She said Buller sent it on to executive director Debbie Reid.

Gabriel says she worked from home because there was no furniture in the office the inquiry has leased in downtown Winnipeg.

She said a smartphone she received did not come with a charging cord.

For that she blames “backlogs” with the federal government – something commissioners have complained about since they were tapped by Ottawa to lead the two-year probe into ongoing violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Sue Caribou blamed those same backlogs for why she stepped down from the National Family Advisory Circle Wednesday.

“This is hurting families,” she said, near tears. “The prime minister has to stop this.”

According to a statement provided by a spokesperson at the Privy Council Office, the non-partisan wing of the prime minister’s office the provides support and advice to cabinet, the government is up to date with any invoices it has received.

“The funds are fully accessible by the Commission and payments are made once approval from the Commission, along with the appropriate supporting documentation, is received,” the statement said.

“I can’t do this anymore,” said Caribou. “The grandmothers have not been paid, families have been stranded in airports. I’m waiting to be reimbursed for travel.

“It’s all too much.”

Caribou said a recent conference call with circle members from across Canada and the commissioners ended in tears.

She said the stress is more than she can handle.

Both Caribou and Gabriel have lost family members to violence.

They said what started as a way to help others has become an emotional roller coaster.

“I’ve encouraged my former co-workers to speak out. This is such a toxic culture.”

Gabriel said she tried to help by making recommendations based on feedback she received from families her suggestions were rejected.

Caribou said she was similarly frustrated. “They ask us for advice but they don’t listen to us,” she said. “There is no support, no communication.”

Caribou, who testified at the Winnipeg hearings, says she wants the Inquiry stopped. So does Gabriel, who is worried about the mental health effects on families.

“This could do some real damage,” Gabriel said.

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7 Responses to “No furniture, no after care at inquiry former employee says”

    Maxine Goforth November 17, 2017 at 11:45 pm #

    As a mother of a daughter that was missing then later found,murdered, I can speak to the fact that Morene did earn my respect because she did not give up after I was in crisis. Morene did unit leave me hanging, nor pass the buck and send me off to someone else. Two days this lady stayed on the phone,both times to ensure I was feeling ok
    Yes,I yelled, cried,but I was angry. I feel let down because Morene has been there for us,and now we have to start all over again. The trust issue is a huge one,Morene earned mine! The firing is unfair to the process, and this lady has been nothing but truthful.

      carly November 19, 2017 at 3:26 am #

      I’m sorry an unqualified individual counselled you when you were in crisis.
      Talk 4 Healing is a good resource with trained staff: 1 855 554 HEAL

    Angie November 17, 2017 at 2:06 am #

    I know in Thunder Bay the Ontario Native Women’s Association received nearly a million dollars to provide “support” to families; I would imagine the government funded other groups in different locations to deliver these services? As I suspected, a quick search shows the federal government provided millions of $ support to various FN organizations in Manitoba

    Gabriel would not be able to refer individuals for professional help if she isn’t a social worker. I am troubled by her admitting she was on the telephone with families, whom she describes experiencing “grief” for hours. That is completely inappropriate and beyond the scope of her position. It makes me wonder why she was fired from her position; appears she doesn’t understand what a community liason officer does.

    She sent commissioners a document outlining 17 ways she believes they could improve? If anyone did this to the CEO of their organization they would be fired for insubordination as well.

      Pepper November 17, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

      I just tried to contact all 15 numbers of the FN organisations listed on that website. Guess what only TWO people answered, and one territory does not have a number. How would someone in a crisis be able to garner any support with a system as such. it’s no wonder they called her directly, it was probably the only number provided to them and, at least she answered.

      Also, providing follow-ups by telephone is part of the procedure at the NI, so she’s only admitting to doing her job.

      Your last statement is not true, had she been operating within a healthy environment, which clearly is not the case, the Commissioners would honour her suggestions and speak with her about her concerns, She is a family member/survivor afterall.

      marie November 17, 2017 at 10:02 pm #

      The link you provide has nothing to do with the issues raised in this article. That link is about helping families access information about their missing or murdered loved one–accessing police files & investigation info, child welfare, social services or other organizations that may have info on the case & investigation. NOTHING to do with support, grief counselling or any followup for grieving & distraught family members.

      It appears to me that employees working directly with the families on followup were not provided sufficient guidance or resources to actually help the families. I say this because the article clearly states it. But then when employees made suggestions to fix problems they encountered, they were not listened to by their superiors. Which means the terrible situation continued, & the families suffered. This is explained in detail in the article.

      Also, I disagree that Gabriel was out of line emailing recommendations–many of which were from families–to the commissioners. I would argue that’s actually her job–to ensure that the Inquiry is as responsive to families as it claims it wants to be. “Trauma-centred” means listening to survivors & loved ones of missing & murdered women. Which is exactly what Gabriel was trying to do, & which seems, inexplicably, to have resulting in her being fired.

        angie November 19, 2017 at 3:24 am #

        The link I provided says that the organizations will work with the families to find them support. If you’re too lazy to do your own work and read an article I’m certainly not going to do it for you. Are you a white woman by any chance?

        If those 15 organizations and no one answered then THOSE organizations are to blame. They received MILLIONS of dollars to provide support. If millions of dollars doesn’t constitute “adequate support” then those organizations should NOT be operating. Despicable.

        If she didn’t get fired for insubordination I wonder what she did get fired for. There are many laws in this country and you must know that someone can’t be fired without just cause.

        Providing after support is the procedure at the NI? Then why is she complaining that there was no support if that was part of her job? Why complain about having counsel families if that was her job (it’s not by the way. She is not a social worker, and she should be investigated for counselling families)

        Angie November 19, 2017 at 3:27 am #

        I don’t think you understand what trauma-centered work entails.