National Post

To date, the inquiry has heard from 763 witnesses at 11 community hearings and one expert hearing, and has gathered an additional 276 statements

Bella Bresse holds a photo of her murdered daughter, Evangeline Billy, at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Whitehorse on May 31, 2017

After a turbulent year and a half marked by delays, criticism and high-profile resignations, the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is officially asking the federal government for more time to complete the work with which it has been tasked.

On Tuesday, the inquiry submitted a formal request for a two-year extension through to December 31, 2020.

“All commissioners are in strong agreement that an additional two years is required to do the work properly, to satisfy our critically important mandate and to provide effective recommendations for change,” chief commissioner Marion Buller said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Buller said the extension would allow the inquiry to significantly broaden the scope of its work, adding up to 21 institutional and expert hearings that would focus on issues including human trafficking, sexual exploitation and addiction services.

“We’re not seeking to expand the mandate,” Buller said. “However, what we are doing is expanding the work, making it deeper, making it more probing.”

To date, Buller said, the inquiry has heard from 763 witnesses at 11 community hearings and one expert hearing, and has gathered an additional 276 statements from survivors and family members. Another 630 individuals have requested to share their stories, she said.

The families of these women and girls need answers to the systemic and institutional failures that lead to the murder of so many Indigenous women

Carolyn Bennett

Buller would not say how much additional money the inquiry has asked for, but APTN News reported on Tuesday that the commissioners are asking for $50 million, which would close to double the inquiry’s existing budget.

In a statement released Tuesday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said she has received the inquiry’s request and will be reviewing it in the coming weeks.

“The families of these women and girls need answers to the systemic and institutional failures that lead to the murder of so many Indigenous women,” she said. “We are committed to getting them the concrete recommendations they have been waiting for, and putting an end to this ongoing tragedy.”

As the government considers whether to give the commission another two years, here’s a look back at the national inquiry’s progress to date:

Dec. 8, 2015: The Trudeau government announces the launch of an independent national inquiry into the murder and disappearance of hundreds of Indigenous women and girls.

Aug. 3, 2016: The government announces the five commissioners who will lead the inquiry and the commission’s terms of reference, which direct the inquiry to “identify and examine the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada and to make recommendations for effective action.”

Sept. 1, 2016: The commissioners officially begin their work, with the aim of submitting an interim report in the fall of 2017 and a final report by the end of 2018. They’re given a budget of $53.8 million.

Delores Daniels holds a photo of her murdered daughter Serena McKay prior to a press conference calling for a re-organization of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Winnipeg, July 12, 2017. John Woods/The Canadian Press

Feb. 4, 2017: The first departure from the national inquiry is reported when director of communications Michael Hutchinson is terminated.

May 15, 2017: Métis artist Christi Belcourt posts an open letter signed by dozens of advocates and Indigenous people suggesting the national inquiry is in “serious trouble” and expressing concern about the “continued lack of communication that is causing anxiety, frustration, confusion, and disappointment in this long-awaited process.”

May 30, 2017: The inquiry’s first hearing begins in Whitehorse, but the commission has already announced that no further community hearings will take place until the fall.

July 6, 2017: After a series of resignations, including that of executive director Michèle Moreau, Buller tells reporters at a press conference in Vancouver that the inquiry is moving at “lightning speed.” The inquiry announces nine community hearings scheduled for the fall, and Buller confirms the inquiry will ask for an extension.

July 11, 2017: Commissioner Marilyn Poitras resigns from the commission, later saying she was concerned about the direction of the inquiry.

July 27, 2017: In response to criticism that it was not focusing enough on police conduct, the inquiry releases a statement saying it has a forensic team reviewing police files.

Sept. 21, 2017: The four remaining commissioners appear before the House of Commons Aboriginal affairs committee and speak about the logistical challenges they’ve faced getting the inquiry off the ground, including delays in getting staff hired and offices and equipment up and running.

Sept. 25, 2017: The fall community hearings begin in Smithers, B.C.

Oct. 7, 2017: The inquiry announces that lead legal counsel Susan Vella has left “effective immediately,” one of a series of resignations and firings throughout the summer and fall.

 

Justin Trudeau berated at missing and murdered… 1:51

Nov. 1, 2017: The inquiry releases its interim report, which places some of the blame for its slow progress at the feet of the federal government and includes a list of challenges the organization has faced.

Dec. 7, 2017: Chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations pass a resolution calling for an extension to the inquiry and for Buller to resign. Buller maintains she has no plans to step aside. 

Jan. 11, 2018: The inquiry confirms that its new executive director, Debbie Reid, has left. The number of people who have left or been fired is now well above 20.

Feb. 13, 2018: The inquiry says it has been unable to begin its forensic review of police files due to technological challenges, while several police agencies across the country say they have not been contacted by the inquiry to provide records.

Mar. 6, 2018: The inquiry formally requests a two-year extension.