National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Chief Commissioner, Marion Buller pauses during an interview with The Canadian Press, in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday August 31, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Head of MMIW inquiry says she understands frustrations over hearing delays

The commission is set to hold its first public hearing May 29 in Whitehorse

The head of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women says the commission accepts full responsibility for delays and poor communication but more time and money are needed to finish the “tremendous work” that has already been done.

Marion Buller responded Friday to concerns outlined in an open letter from more than 30 advocates, aboriginal leaders and family members that the process is in “serious trouble.”

The problem is one of communication, Buller told a news conference at the First Nations House of Learning on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

RELATED: Call from Chilliwack for expanded MMIW inquiry to add men and boys

“I don’t think it’s a matter of leadership. I don’t think it’s a matter of staff issues. It’s our fault for not communicating the tremendous work we have already accomplished,” Buller said.

“The top priority for the national inquiry is to let the whole country know the tremendous work we have already done and the work that we plan to do and how we’re going to carry out that work.”

Buller, the first female First Nations judge in B.C., and four other commissioners are overseeing the inquiry, which launched in September and was expected to take two years and cost $53.8 million. Buller said work has begun on a new timeline and budget, but couldn’t say when details would be released.

Earlier this week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett responded to the open letter, saying she shares the concerns of family members who are growing more anxious about the inquiry.

The group, which published its comments Monday on the website of Metis artist Christi Belcourt, said it is aware the commission faces a difficult challenge, but it noted immediate action must be taken to shift the current approach and prevent damage.

Buller said she understands that some people want the commission to proceed faster and she hears the frustration of those who have waited up to 40 years for answers.

RELATED: Stetski reacts to throne speech, MMIW inquiry

But she said there are others who are telling the commission to take its time and be careful and respectful so that it doesn’t cause any more damage or retraumatize people.

“I understand where they are coming from too, because they don’t want the hurt to continue,” Buller said.

“The commissioners and I share one important concern above all, and that’s our fear of retraumatizing people,” she added. “It’s a concern we live with daily and we take very seriously.”

Buller said a lot of work has been done behind the scenes and she still expects to release the commission’s first report in November.

“There is still a lot of hope out there,” she said. “We still enjoy the support of many family members across Canada, many survivors across Canada. We continue to receive letters, emails, telephone calls of people saying we support what you are doing. We receive some great comments of what we can do better.”

Buller said the commission could have started a courtroom-like inquiry months ago because that has been done many times before, but this inquiry is different.

“We want to take a decolonized, indigenous approach to this work that will do no further harm. You can’t roll that out in a couple of months. It takes time to do it right and we intend to do it right. That’s the only way that’s fair, to honour the spirits of the lost women and girls, and to honour the spirits of the survivors.”

The commission is set to hold its first public hearing May 29 in Whitehorse in a tent instead of a courtroom.

Other community meetings won’t take place until later in the fall at the earliest.

Feb. 15, 2017: More than 100 people gathered outside the Kelowna courthouse Tuesday evening for the 6th annual Murder and Missing Indigenous woman’s memorial vigil.

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

VIDEO: One hurt after police-involved shooting in Mission

Suspect taken to hospital after being shot during police incident

Six hospitalized after eating chili at Surrey school luncheon

School staff have since been released from hospital after eating the chili at Hjorth Road Elementary

Parents rally to support LGBT education in Abbotsford schools

Small demonstration held in the rain to counter anti-SOGI rhetoric

Trial underway in marijuana ‘compassion club’ case

Bob Woolsey of Mission says police abused their power in 2015 investigation

VIDEO: Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

This year’s event featured six stops, including viewing points and activity centres.

Man linked to Shuswap farm where human remains found to appear in court

A rally will be held on the Vernon courthouse steps prior to Curtis Sagmoen’s appearance

B.C. snow plow operator helps save elderly man

The 73-year-old man had fallen at his isolated home, and finally was able to call for help

Wildlife group challenges B.C.’s interpretation of law on destroying bears

Fur-Bearers are challenging a conservation officer’s decision to kill a bear cub near Dawson Creek

Tourism numbers continue to climb in B.C.

The majority of international travellers to British Columbia are coming from Australia

Canadian screen stars want ‘action’ from industry meeting on sexual misconduct

‘Of course there’s been sexual harassment here. Absolutely. No question.’

Accused in violent Kamloops burglary charged with attempted murder

Accused in violent Kamloops burglary, home invasion charged with attempted murder; victim remains in hospital

Cannabidiol products available in Summerland

Products contain medical benefits of cannabis, but with no psychoactive properties

Most Read