February 12, 2018 4:18 pm
Updated: February 13, 2018 4:31 pm

MMIWG inquiry begins two-day community hearing in Moncton

A silhouette representing missing and murdered women stands outside a sacred fire on the Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia during the MMIWG hearings there in October 2017.

File/ Global News

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has begun a community hearing in Moncton on Tuesday.

Commissioner Michèle Audette is scheduled to hear from about 20 family members and survivors in public and private hearings. As well, the inquiry will hear from sharing circle testimonies and artistic expression panels.

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Pam Filier was the first to speak at the hearing on Tuesday morning. Her daughter, Hilary Bonnell, was 16 when she was found dead in 2009, two months after she vanished from the Esgenoopetitj First Nation in northern New Brunswick. The girl’s 32-year-old cousin was later convicted of first-degree murder.

“It doesn’t end when you bury your child. It just starts another kind of pain,” she said.

Filier is calling for stiffer sentences and tougher laws when someone commits murder.

“If we don’t get tougher laws, these monsters keep getting let out. That’s another child in danger,” she said.

READ: Justin Trudeau says he’s not ready to scrap or restart MMIWG

Much of the day was spent hearing from a Knowledge Keepers panel – three elders who detailed the history of Indigenous people in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and issues that have arisen, particularly the loss of status by Indigenous women who married non-Aboriginal men.

“The loss of status is loss of community,” said Judy Clark, adding that Indigenous men marrying non-native women kept their status.

Imelda Perley, a member of the Red Shawl Campaign, said that treatment has put up walls that need to be removed.

People who wish to share their stories can also give their statements on a “walk-in” basis. There will be staff onsite to gather statements from up to 20 people who want to walk in and register.

The federal government has earmarked two years and $53.8 million for the study, aimed at examining root causes of violence toward Indigenous women and girls.

A final report is due at the end of 2018.

READ MORE: Indigenous women in prison must have voice in MMIW inquiry: advocates

A number of survivors, families and Indigenous leaders have called for the federal government to formally restart the process due to concerns over operational matters with the inquiry.

The Moncton community hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13 and 14.

— With files from the Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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