'I'm actually repulsed that you're here' AFN votes to oust Buller from inquiry  - APTN NewsAPTN News

‘I’m actually repulsed that you’re here’ AFN votes to oust Buller from inquiry 

MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson addresses Marion Buller at the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Ottawa.

(MKO Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson at the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly Thursday. Photo: APTN)

Paul Barnsley
As Missing and Murdered Women and Girls Inquiry Chief Commissioner Marion Buller was telling APTN that she would ask the federal government for a two year extension of the inquiry’s mandate, a resolution brought to the Assembly of First Nations December assembly floor by Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins was being debated by the chiefs and proxies.

Shortly after, the resolution endorsing an extension of the mandate was passed.

But an amendment calling for Buller to be replaced was included.

The vote was 48-15. Although there were close to 250 chiefs in attendance for Day 1 of the three-day affair, the quorum is established based on the number of chiefs in attendance each day.

Since the hall in the Ottawa Westin was nowhere as crowded on the assembly’s final day as it had been for the first two days, the 63 votes met the rules for a quorum.

Inquiry commissioner Marion Buller addresses the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Ottawa.

(Inquiry commissioner Marion Buller addressing the AFN Thursday. Photo: APTN)

Buller had just finished addressing the assembly. It had been an emotional couple of hours.

The grief, anger and frustration percolating in First Nations communities across Canada erupted into raw fury at times Thursday morning, with Buller, accompanied by Commissioner Qajaq Robinson, bearing the brunt of it.

Delaware Nation at Moravian Town Chief Denise Stonefish, who is also a member of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) women’s council, predicted on the first day of the assembly that Buller was going to hear some criticism.

“The AFN is prepared to call for some changes to the inquiry process if it is not proceeding in a good way,” Stonefish said.

As the final day began and the chiefs awaited Buller’s arrival, Stonefish reminded them that they had passed a resolution last July calling for the inquiry to be less legalistic and less top-down.

But after Buller’s 35-minute address to the chiefs, the floor was thrown open to comments and questions.

Long lines had already formed at the two microphones provided for people on the floor to address the assembly.

Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail at the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Ottawa.

(Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail at the AFN meeting Thursday in Ottawa. Photo: APTN)

Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, an activist from Attawapiskat, went first and she was angry.

“You give us our inquiry back,” she told Buller. “Without ceremony, it’s a gong show.”

She said people from her community had testified at one of the inquiry’s 28 community visits so far. She said they had been left without food, accommodation or travel.

“You left us with no supports whatsoever,” she added. “My nephew is now dead after giving testimony to your inquiry. How do you fix that exactly?”

She said the inquiry had lost records that the family needed.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson joined in on the attack.

“This issue became a national election issue, an international issue, because of the women, the work they did lobbying for an inquiry,” she said. “You’re making it about yourself and your commissioners.”

Buller sat at head table stoically absorbing the criticism without reaction.

“You’re probably a brilliant person but you’re not a brilliant commissioner,” North Wilson continued. “I’m actually repulsed that you’re here, showing no emotion. We need to see you resign. We see a commission that’s falling apart. You need to go.”

Given the chance to defend herself, Buller chose not to respond to the specific criticisms.

“I’m always grateful for constructive criticism because it’s helpful for the work we do,” she said. “Our work is important. The commissioners and I intend to continue because that’s what the survivors and families are telling us. We intend to continue.”

Assembly co-chair Harold Tarbell noticed there were still long lines at the microphones so he recognized Neskonlith First Nation Chief Judy Wilson.

She referred to reports that the inquiry has cost more than $50 million so far.

“Fifty-four million is for nothing if there’s no justice,” she said. “Canada has to get it right. There’s a stark difference between the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and this inquiry. Why? Is it money? Is it organization? Is it how it’s led?”

Wilson said the scope of the inquiry was too limited and not designed to bring perpetrators to justice.

It was then the Fort William chief got the floor.

“I want to put a resolution forward to ask for an extension because if the inquiry doesn’t go forward it will have failed,” said Peter Collins.

He added that the terms of reference that started the whole process, designed by the federal government, were a failure themselves, seeking to limit accountability for the damage done to thousands of First Nations people.

Commissioner Qajaq Robinson listens to Marion Buller at the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Ottawa.

(Inquiry commissioner Qajaq Robinson sits at the AFN and listens to criticism of Marion Buller and the workings of the commission. Photo: APTN)

Earlier, Buller seemed to sense she would face some criticism.

During her presentation, she pointed out that the job was tough and the commission would continue to need all the help and support it could get.

“The task given to the national inquiry is daunting. We cannot do it alone,” she told the chiefs. “I know that we’ve been criticized and some of that criticism has been valid. But we’ve done a lot of work and it’s only been nine months. Somehow that’s been lost in the translation. The TRC had seven years, we’ve been given two.”

She reported that a new team of statement takers who would seek out incarcerated women and people on the street. The commission has also asked the federal government to come up with more money for after-care for those who do testify.

“We have to dig deeper. That’s what the families and the people in this room have told us,” Buller added.


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6 Responses to “‘I’m actually repulsed that you’re here’ AFN votes to oust Buller from inquiry ”

  1. Poitras.george@gmail.com'
    George Poitras December 9, 2017 at 6:44 am #

    …low, very low!!

  2. Tracy.buffalo2020@gmail.com'
    Tracy Buffalo December 8, 2017 at 4:50 am #

    I get the criticism about the Injury and the way it’s going, and i get what went down at the Assembly and I get the Resolution for an extension of time but what I don’t get is why the heck are there only 63 Chiefs out of 250 present when the presentation and discussion took place? Really? Am I missing something? Ask your Chief “Where were you”, “What did you say?” We will never know if the majority of the Chiefs support the Commission or have issues with it! We need to get our shit together!

  3. pierre_john@moricetown.ca'
    Debbie Pierre December 8, 2017 at 3:29 am #

    There is NO attention or mechanisms to address families needs. I believe there is good thought to begin this process, implementation would be difficult, as each persons’ need is much different than another. So true difference, listen to the people and government and your members make it happen. Grass roots needs – on the ground response. When the $$ tallies everyone is lets go to an enquiry – and then what 🙁

  4. kitunaha@hotmail.com'
    Troy Hunter December 8, 2017 at 2:45 am #

    People are expecting something other than what a commission is about. I have been in the courthouse before Judge Buller and understand that she is fair and she gets it. When I tried raising a constitutional question about removal of Aboriginal children and how it impacts their Aboriginal Rights, Judge Buller said she understands very well what is going on. I trust that she will do justice in the end; we just have to give it time and let her do her job. She has a big job to do and we cannot allow the show to be toppled because there is dissatisfaction from people that expect something more. Rather than a travelling road-show as if its some kind of circuit court, perhaps, we could have approached the situation by hiring lawyers on the ground in the communities across Canada and to collectively build a report that is filled with recommendations that will bring meaningful change. Nothing can be done to return our stolen sisters; there is so much racism and even in the system that is supposed to be blind and neutral, we see Starlight Tours in Saskatchewan; kids ending up in the waters of Thunder Bay; police not taking action or doing things to protect the “brotherhood”. The only thing that we can do to change this situation is massive change and that means, we as Indigenous people must become stronger in self-determination efforts including our own policing, our own transportation systems, our own healing lodges, our own sobriety, and to accept the teachings like the medicine wheel and the seven sacred laws. We must become self-sufficient and to be able to protect one another. The time for tribal warfare ended centuries ago, the time for unity is now. There are no judges on the Supreme Court of Canada in the history of this country that are not caucasian. Its time we took our own systems and created what works for us. The old Russian Embassy in Ottawa should be the house of healing complete with Indigenous Senate and an Indigenous Film Commission. We can blame the police, we can blame the White Man, we can blame the politicians, we can blame the unknown, and we can make hurtful speeches in the Assembly of First Nations to our own Indigenous people like the honourable Judge Buller. This is the wrong approach. We need to look to solutions to prevent the tragedy that is occurring. We need to have massive change, we can invite China to build Shaolin temples on the Reserves and to train our women to be warriors to protect against violence. We can build healing forests with places to recover, with places to heal, with alternatives than that of prison. Our people can become trained in the arts, and trades, make movies, build houses, help us to become something better. When a judge gives an Aboriginal person a sentence they must consider alternative options but we haven’t built those options. We cannot afford to lose our Aboriginal children to the social workers that take away kids from their culture, we cannot afford to have our youth sit in prison leaning to be better criminals, we cannot afford to lose our relatives to the black road. The time for change is now. Let Marion Buller do what she was hired to do and stop making speeches that are nothing but hurtful words and will achieve nothing in the end. The AFN is not in the drivers seat of the #MMIW inquiry.

  5. Kookum69@hotmail.com'
    Sharon December 8, 2017 at 12:23 am #

    We as native people should have been consulted at the start of this process , we should have cultural and natives perspective in each sharing circle . Culturally appropriate for the areas of the hearings . This hearing is southern based as a northern native woman. I feel we do not count . There should have been 4 areas mapped in each province and 2 teams of people hearing the victims. Do one province at. Time. For the millions that was given it was not thought out to address victims and families Each province at 3 days of hearing -2. Teams that’s 6 days a month and 10 months to do all provinces each team to have traditional grief counsellors 5 each team I sit hear and think there was no consideration in these areas. Correct me if I am wrong Elkosani standing mother bear

  6. josephine_m_gabriel@hotmail.com'
    Josephine Gabriel December 7, 2017 at 10:40 pm #

    Hi, I just want to share with you my letter to the executive director for the National Inquiry.
    Debbie Reid, I’m pretty sure you remember me from Skownan, my name is Josephine Gabriel and I am one of the few First Nations people who were forcibly removed from our treaty two territory. I wanted to tell you that your position as executive director is a contradiction on our rights as Indigenous people. The reason being that your family & community is responsible for the mistreatment and abuse of the Waterhen people who have been living in exile in Portage la Prairie for the past 21 years. All atrocities that have taken place against the Waterhen people is a violation of the UN Declaration of Indigenous rights. Our children were apprehended, our homes taken away, language loss, our livelihoods and connection to our ancestral lands are no longer and you have the audacity to get up in front of Canada and claim to be in it for Indigenous people, especially women. You don’t represent me. If you really want to get to the bottom of why there is missing and murdered women, its because of unequal opportunity, abuse from our community members, corruption, nepotism, cultural genocide and lack of accountability. If you want to meet with me face to face, I’m available at your convenience, you can get a hold of me here. There is no honor in oppression!
    Two girls have gone missing and murdered from our displaced band. Jennifer Catcheway and Rocelyn Gabriel (cousin) because of disolacement, loss of identity and intergenerational trauma……