Call for ‘hard re­set’

Mur­dered women in­quiry a fail­ure, fam­i­lies say

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - BY JEN­NIFER GRA­HAM

The fam­i­lies of miss­ing and mur­dered Indige­nous women say a na­tional in­quiry has al­ready failed and are call­ing for “a hard re­set” on the process.

Many made emo­tional pleas Wed­nes­day as two of the in­quiry com­mis­sion­ers ap­peared at the Assem­bly of First Na­tions an­nual meet­ing to ex­plain the in­quiry process, in­clud­ing how to reg­is­ter and give tes­ti­mony.

One of com­mis­sion­ers ad­mit­ted the in­quiry has been in “cri­sis mode” for sev­eral weeks, but said she doesn’t be­lieve it’s fail­ing women.

Gerri Pang­man, whose sis­ter and aunt were killed in sep­a­rate in­ci­dents decades apart, said the in­quiry is a fail­ure be­cause it doesn’t hold po­lice to ac­count.

“For this na­tional in­quiry, in the terms of ref­er­ence, to leave out the po­lice, it’s a fail­ure and it’s a dis­hon­our to my sis­ter,” Pang­man said at the meet­ing.

The re­mains of Pang­man’s sis­ter, Jen­nifer McPher­son, were found scat­tered on a re­mote is­land off the coast of Van­cou­ver Is­land and her hus­band was con­victed of mur­der in 2014.

Her hus­band, Traigo An­dretti, sub­se­quently pleaded guilty to sec­ond-de­gree mur­der in the death of a Man­i­toba woman,

Myrna Le­tan­dre, who dis­ap­peared in 2006. Le­tan­dre’s dis­mem­bered re­mains were found in 2013 in a Win­nipeg room­ing house.

“So it took the death of my sis­ter for Myrna’s fam­ily to get jus­tice, when it could have been in 2006 and my sis­ter would be here,” said Pang­man. “And you can just say this in­quiry is go­ing to be a suc­cess? No, it failed my sis­ter.”

An­other woman, Hilda An­der­son-Pyrz, said the in­quiry has failed be­cause fam­i­lies don’t be­lieve in the process and the process doesn’t feel safe enough for peo­ple to share sto­ries.

“I’m sorry, but stand­ing here, I have a re­ally dif­fi­cult time with you two shar­ing this process like ev­ery­thing is good. It’s not good,” she said.

An­der­son-Pyrz, who is also co-chair of a Man­i­toba coali­tion for fam­i­lies of miss­ing and mur­dered indige­nous women, said she sup­ports a na­tional in­quiry, but not the cur­rent process which she called frac­tured, given that one com­mis­sioner and five staff mem­bers have al­ready re­signed.

“You’ve failed in com­mu­ni­ca­tions. You’ve failed to build trust. You’ve failed to build re­la­tion­ships with fam­i­lies. So, for me, I stand here to­day and I ask the com­mis­sion­ers to re­spect­fully step down. I’m call­ing for a hard re­set as a fam­ily mem­ber,” said An­der­son-Pyrz.

But not every­one wanted a com­plete over­haul.

Others, like Chris­tine Si­mard­Chicago, sug­gested the com­mis­sion­ers’ hands were bound by the gov­ern­ment’s rules and that needs to change.

Among other things, the time­line needs to be ex­tended, she said.

“To have an in­quiry of this mag­ni­tude, to be able to get off the ground takes time ... and mis­takes are go­ing to be made,” said Si­mard-Chicago, who lost a cousin in 2011 and also works with the Na­tional Fam­ily Ad­vi­sory Cir­cle. “But if we work to­gether as fam­i­lies come up with so­lu­tions and help them move along in their jobs, maybe we can come up with some good con­crete rec­om­men­da­tions.”

AFN Chief Perry Bel­le­garde said there are con­cerns, but ex­pressed sup­port for the in­quiry.

“They have a dif­fi­cult job, dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions to make and we have to re­ally come to­gether as lead­ers... with all of our chiefs, work­ing to­gether, and the fam­i­lies, to sup­port them and lis­ten to them,” he said late Wed­nes­day evening af­ter more than three hours of com­ments.

“They didn’t have to come here, but they came. They came to lis­ten.”

The two-year, $53.8-mil­lion study is de­signed to ex­am­ine the root causes of vi­o­lence against Indige­nous women and girls.

CP PHOTO

Na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde speaks dur­ing the open­ing of the Assem­bly of First Na­tions an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Regina, Sask.

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