Canada’s embattled national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is holding a team-building event in Toronto next week, APTN News has learned.
Commissioner Michele Audette confirmed the exercise will be held at the Four Points Sheraton hotel, saying it should have happened a long time ago.
“We are running at resource capacity,” she said Friday. “We are burning (out) staff.”
The commission of inquiry has been mired in controversy, with criticism coming from families, Indigenous leaders and politicians.
Nearly two dozen employees – and one of five commissioners – have resigned or been fired. Current commissioners have been told to step down and the Trudeau government advised to re-set the proceedings.
But Audette suggested the meeting in Toronto could help focus the inquiry team for the final 10 months remaining on its two-year mandate.
Unless it receives the two-year extension it is seeking.
She confirmed it is tweaking the request it plans to submit in the coming weeks.
“For sure it will be a document presented to the prime minister and the minister responsible for this inquiry very soon,” she said. “Maybe next week or in two weeks.”
Chief Commissioner Marion Buller promised to submit the request before Christmas but missed the self-imposed deadline. She was not made available for an interview to explain why.
A resolution supporting an extension if Buller resigned was passed at a recent special chiefs meeting of the Assembly of First Nations. But it hasn’t been received by the government yet either.
Audette explained the deadline was missed for a few reasons, not the least of which was her desire to have the request translated.
“We said clearly that it was going to be presented before Christmas…we were hoping to present it in December we said. And when I saw the document I said I would need to have it in French to make sure I understand every word of it, and that brought a small delay.”
Audette, who lives in Quebec, said an extension would give them time to “breathe” between cross-Canada hearings, which are intense and emotional experiences for survivors, families and commissioners.
She also said they needed time to hire more employees.
Two sources told APTN News between 50 and 70 inquiry employees would be attending the all-staff event at a cost of $6,000 each for travel, accommodation and meals.
The inquiry operates three offices in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa but not Toronto.
It has a budget of $53.8 million announced by the Trudeau government in August 2016.