(Graffiti in the bathroom of the Rankin Inlet community centre.)
Offensive graffiti is being blamed, in part, for postponing the Rankin Inlet stop of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“That’s what I heard,” said Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.
“That there’s pretty bad graffiti in the washroom but that can be covered over with a can of paint.”
Kudloo said she’s still wondering why the Dec. 12-14 hearings were suddenly rescheduled on Nov. 23 – to February 2018.
“There was no warning,” she said in a telephone interview Monday.
“We’re pretty upset and disappointed because this was supposed to be the first Inuit community that the inquiry was going to.”
Kudloo said the hearings were scheduled for the community hall in Rankin Inlet, which hosts everything from trade shows to art sales.
She said she heard Inquiry staff also had concerns about public access to the canteen – something her group could have addressed.
“We have tried to work with the Inquiry,” she said. “But they don’t communicate with us.
“We could have asked for the canteen to be closed. We could have found another venue.”
The inquiry said in a statement Nov. 23 it consulted with families before postponing the hearings.
But families APTN News spoke to say that isn’t quite true.
They said they received phone calls from Inquiry staff earlier in the day complaining about “fatigue” and suggesting Iqaluit or Montreal would host the hearings instead of Rankin.
No new date or venue has been announced.
Justin Merritt, the hamlet’s senior administrative officer, confirmed the Inquiry cancelled its booking for the hall via email on Nov. 24.
The last-minute postponement shocked and upset some of the 15 families registered to testify.
Kudloo said it interrupted their mental preparation and caused hard feelings.
“It is hard not to criticize the inquiry,” she said. “They are harming people.”
Sources said an advance team would have taken note of graffiti and public accessibility but the resignation last week of Inuk lawyer Joseph Murdoch-Flowers is more likely the reason the hearings were postponed.
Murdoch-Flowers was the Inquiry’s lead lawyer for Nunavut, Northwest Territories and parts of Atlantic Canada.
He tendered his resignation without public explanation on Nov. 21.
He is one of nearly two dozen staff to leave the Inquiry since it was formed in September 2016.
Chief Commissioner Marion Buller said in her statement there were concerns about privacy and safety with the community hall.
Again, Kudloo said this was news to them.
“They don’t communicate with us ahead of time. We, the community, will bend over backward for them,” she said.
“We’ve been trying to support them and being positive and this has been difficult when they’re not directly working with us. We have offered several times face to face to help them.”
This is not the first time Inuit women feel let down.
They are still smarting over the lack of an Inuit commissioner.
Lawyer Qajaq Robinson was born in Iqaluit and is fluent in Inuktitut and English, but she is not Indigenous.
“An Inuk commissioner would have helped the inquiry with the planning,” Kudloo said.
In the meantime, Kudloo has cancelled her trip to Rankin and said she will lobby to keep the hearing in Nunavut instead of down south.
The inquiry did not respond to a request for comment as of this story’s posting.