With 11 words, another lawyer quit the beleaguered National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as it rolled into Saskatoon.
“I confirm that I have resigned, and will not comment further,” wrote Joseph Murdoch-Flowers in an email that was sent to various media.
The Murdoch-Flowers bomb hit on the first day of hearings in Saskatoon – where it threatened to overshadow the heartbreaking testimony of grieving family members.
“It’s their circus, it’s their monkeys,” said Delores Stevenson, the aunt of Nadine Machiskinic. “It’s causing a lot of frustration and taking the focus off families.”
Stevenson said she tried to block out the behind-the-scenes turmoil as she prepared to share her niece’s story with Chief Commissioner Marion Buller.
“I want to shed light on systemic racism,” Stevenson said. “That’s what I presented to Canada.”
Stevenson is raising one of four children Machiskinic left behind after she died in January 2010.
Regina police say the 29-year-old fell 10 stories down a laundry chute at the Delta hotel.
But the family questions that conclusion and says mistakes were made throughout the investigation.
Last summer it was announced the Saskatchewan RCMP would review the case.
Now Stevenson called for an investigation into what she says is “systemic racism” in the provincial medical examiner’s office.
“I have to question where is the accountability in this system? Where is the accountability in the coroner’s office?” she said.
Stevenson is one of 40 witnesses registered to testify at the Inquiry’s three-day stop in Saskatoon – and the Inquiry says it is expecting at least another 40 to show up.
Buller told reporters this morning her staff could accommodate more last-minute walk-ins.
On top of the families, and the Murdoch-Flowers resignation, the inquiry is also dealing with the firing of three support workers from the inquiry.
And when asked about the management style of executive director Debbie Reid, she cut the news conference short declining to comment on personnel issues.
Reid has fired three employees in the last six weeks, sources tell APTN News. Two of them were managers of health, who worked with traumatized families.
“She was very good, very helpful,” Stevenson said of one of the fired workers – Morene Gabriel of Winnipeg – who covered the Saskatchewan-Manitoba region. “She spoke Saulteaux to my mother. She stayed in contact with my family.”
Gabriel did media interviews last week saying she wasn’t told why she was fired.
She described a dysfunctional workplace rife with gossip and bullying.
An email Reid distributed to employees after her hiring in October outlined a take-no-prisoners approach.
“I believe it is important to be authentic and self-aware when you are asked to be a leader,” said a copy of the email sent to media. “In that vein, if you haven’t yet interacted with me, you will quickly see I am forthcoming and say what I mean and don’t mince words.
“This has both helped me and more times than not got me in trouble in my career.”
Reid, who is from Manitoba, said some people see her “as aggressive and ‘in your face’.” But she suggested she was brought in to clean up a mess.
“When I interviewed with the Commissioners,” Reid wrote, “I made it clear that I wasn’t afraid to take on the role of making tough decisions and come in and deal with those challenges which have led to those outside of this circle to criticize the Commissioners.”
Reid has not responded to numerous requests for comment from APTN about the Inquiry’s work environment, and most recently Murdoch-Flowers resignation.
His departure brings to three the number of lawyers that have left the Inquiry.
There are eight remaining.
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