VANCOUVER – The head of an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women denies the process is drifting, saying in Vancouver that she believes it’s moving at “lightning speed.”
Marion Buller said Thursday that in the first eight months, staff have been hired, offices have opened and a first hearing has been held.
“In my view that’s lightning speed,” she said.
The inquiry has faced controversy over the resignation of its executive director and complaints from families that the process is not moving fast enough.
“People are leaving because of personal reasons and for positive reasons,” Buller said of departures from her office.
“In some cases they’ve been offered jobs of a lifetime … This sort of change is to be expected.”
Buller said the next round of community hearings will be held beginning Sept. 10 in Thunder Bay, Ont., before moving on to Smithers, B.C., Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Halifax, Edmonton, Yellowknife and closing in mid-December in Maliotenam, Que.
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She also announced that two expert panels will speak to the inquiry this summer and fall on the topics of Indigenous laws and decolonization, and human rights.
Buller said she will soon announce additional hearings for next winter and spring, adding that they will include rural, remote communities.
Over the next few weeks, inquiry staff will travel to the locations hosting the fall hearings to prepare for the events.
“Much work must be done to prepare ourselves, the families and survivors for the hearings,” Buller noted, citing lessons learned recently in Whitehorse.
The inquiry’s executive director, Michele Moreau, resigned last week, citing personal reasons, prompting the Native Women’s Association of Canada to urge the inquiry to be more transparent and reassuring to families.
On Thursday, Buller said if she could start again, she might actually slow things down, not speed them up.
Here is a list of the hearings that will be held in the fall:
Sept. 10 (week of) — Thunder Bay, Ont.
Sept. 25 — Smithers, B.C.
Oct. 16 — Winnipeg
Oct. 23 – Saskatoon, Sask.
Oct. 30 – Halifax
Nov. 6 – Edmonton
Nov. 13 – Yellowknife
Nov. 27 – Maliotenam, Que.
-With files from Global News