A University of Saskatchewan law professor who was serving as one of the commissioners for Canada’s inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women has stepped down.
Marilyn Poitras resigned on Monday in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, citing the inquiry’s “current structure.”
She adds her name to a growing list of people connected to the troubled inquiry who have left their jobs since it began its work eight months ago.
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On Tuesday, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said she met with the remaining four commissioners on Monday out of concern that the inquiry was losing focus and not communicating effectively with Canadians.
“There is no question that … the communication has been an issue, and that they have got to do a better job communicating their vision,” Bennett told reporters outside the House of Commons, noting that even she didn’t have a clear idea of the inquiry’s path.
“Successful commissions bring Canadians along as they go.”
Still, the minister added, she is now confident they will be able to move ahead and deliver a first interim report in November. There is no indication that Poitras will be replaced as the inquiry begins a series of hearings in communities across Canada this September.
“The meeting yesterday was, as I said, very productive,” Bennett noted.
Slew of departures
In addition to Poitras, the inquiry has already lost executive director Michele Moreau, director of operations Chantale Courcy, director of communications Sue Montgomery and manager of community relations Tanya Kappo.
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Last week, chief commissioner Marion Buller said she was pleased with the inquiry’s progress and its pace, and said the staff who have left have done so to pursue other opportunities.
“People are leaving because of personal reasons and for positive reasons,” Buller said of the slew of departures.
“In some cases they’ve been offered jobs of a lifetime … This sort of change is to be expected.”
Buller said she, personally, had no intention of stepping aside.
Bennett seemed to echo those sentiments on Tuesday, explaining that “the work is very intense … a lot of people have reassured me that the changes in this kind of work are often seen.”
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Poitras began her career as a native court worker and has long focused on constitutional and Aboriginal law.
The nationwide probe into violence against Indigenous women and girls began last September and is scheduled to run until Dec. 31, 2018. It is expected to cost taxpayers just under $54 million.