With inquiry in chaos, head must step aside
the National inquiry into Missing and Murdered indigenous Women and girls is dying a death of a thousand cuts, and it’s high time the chief commissioner stepped aside.
Former provincial court judge Marion Buller was a well-meaning choice, but she lacks the managerial competence for the captain’s job.
in the latest of a slew of departures, Waneek horn-Miller has quit as director of community engagement.
the former olympian joined an exodus — executive director Michèle Moreau, director of communications sue Montgomery, director of operations Chantale Courcy and tanya Kappo, former manager of community relations.
Marilyn Poitras, Métis university of saskatchewan professor, was one of the commissioners who quit with a scathing critique about “the status quo colonial model of hearings.”
the commission has had one set of hearings, postponed others and already says it will probably need more money — $53.8 million isn’t enough — and doesn’t expect to meet the deadline of dec. 31, 2018.
Buller is a member of the Mistawasis First Nation in saskatchewan. in 1994, she was the first indigenous woman appointed to the B.C. provincial bench. she spearheaded the move in 2006 to create First Nations courts. But Buller appears out of her depth.
“i don’t intend to resign,” she insisted last month. “We have to put this in the right context. We started on sept. 1, four commissioners and myself and a piece of paper, our terms of reference. in eight months, we hired staff, we opened offices, we put life to our terms of reference and we held our first hearing. in my view, that’s lightning speed.”
Buller is well-intentioned but she doesn’t have the requisite managerial expertise and few of the public relations skills the job requires.
Most of the families and advocates, for instance, hoped a key component of any final report would be an indictment of police practices and a prescription for reform.
But there are 14 different federal, provincial and territorial police jurisdictions in Canada, they are outside the inquiry’s official mandate and any concerns the inquiry raises will be referred back to them.
Wally oppal, the former attorney general and longtime senior justice, was sorely tested to conduct even his one-man inquiry restricted to B.C.
the very women he was intended to support picketed him for weeks; the main aboriginal groups walked away affronted.
the B.C. Civil Liberties association, Pivot Legal society, West Coast Leaf — 15 groups complained about being silenced, of the commission’s failure to call important witnesses and of investigative stones left unturned.
But oppal got his job done and his 1,400-page report made a host of valuable recommendations.
Buller finds herself juggling the same handfuls of multi-faceted issues while under intense scrutiny.
oppal had been a politician who understood the media and the pressures of being in the public eye. Buller is experiencing it for the first time without her judicial shield.
i think the learning curve of orchestrating a five-person, crosscountry commission with such a short mandate has proven too fast and too steep for her.
this inquiry should have been headed by someone more prepared such as Mary ellen turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s former child advocate.
a member of the Muskeg Cree Nation, turpel-Lafond was the first aboriginal woman named to saskatchewan’s provincial court.
Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of indigenous and northern affairs, could do worse than asking Buller to sit as a commissioner and replacing her with turpel-Lafond to resuscitate the inquiry.
Buller should not take it as a demotion.