After saying they’d get it to the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations before Christmas, Carolyn Bennett is still waiting for a formal request to extend the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
“Yes, the paperwork is done. We just have to fine-tune it,” Chief Commissioner Marion Buller told APTN News in an interview on Dec. 8.
“When we’re ready – and it will be before Christmas – it’s going to be a solid request.”
But nothing was received by the Privy Council Office, the Prime Minister’s Office or Bennet’s office by Friday afternoon at 5 p.m., a spokesperson confirmed.
Bennett has told APTN more than once she is open to extending the inquiry, which has been struggling since it started, past the initial two-year mandate.
Buller told APTN it would be a solid ask “because we can’t come back to the government in two years and say, ‘OK, we need another year.’ Like TRC had to do. We have to do it right from the beginning.”
The TRC or Truth and Reconciliation Commission ran for five years with a $60-million budget. Its mandate was later extended for one additional year.
The MMIWG Inquiry was struck for two years with a budget of $53.8- million.
It is scheduled to wrap up in September 2018.
Buller didn’t say how much more money she’d need but confirmed she’d like the inquiry to run another two years into 2020.
Without an extension, she said “we will continue but it won’t be as in-depth, it won’t be as broad, it won’t be as detailed. There will be voices that won’t be heard.”
She said the commission needs another two years to do the job properly.
Buller spoke to APTN outside the AFN Special Chief’s Assembly where she delivered a speech that was poorly received.
Later, chiefs passed a resolution endorsing the extension on condition she steps down.
The most withering attack came from Sheila Wilson, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 30 First Nations.
“I have to tell you and I’m kind of repulsed that you’re actually here because in the summertime you didn’t even acknowledge our concerns,” Wilson said at the time.
“We saw a commission that is falling apart and is not doing the work that the women and children and men fought for. And I’m sorry to say that but I think you have to go.
“You need to step down to salvage this inquiry.”
Buller accepted the words as constructive criticism and said the message would help her team do better.
But Gladys Radek, a veteran of the MMIWG movement and member of the National Family Advisory Council to the inquiry, called North’s attack unprofessional.
“I was really disgusted with the choice of words used against her,” Radek said Friday in a telephone interview from Vancouver.
Radek was understanding about Buller missing her own deadline to ask for an extension.
“I do know she’s working on it…they’re under a lot of pressure right now.”
A message asking the Inquiry about the status of the request was not returned.
The inquiry did post a tweet December 21 saying its offices would be closed from December 25 to January 2 but a toll-free helpline would operate during the holiday period.
— InquiryEnquête (@MMIWG) December 21, 2017
Radek said she was OK with that, too.
“They’ve been on the road and working their butts off,” she said of the inquiry’s schedule of public hearings. “This is a time they should be with their own families.”