The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has abruptly postponed regional advisory meetings that had been set for Edmonton and Thunder Bay, Ont., next week.
The meetings, launched by Ottawa but independent from the federal government, aim to gather advice from survivors and families on what issues should be covered when the inquiry starts public hearings at the end of May.
The first meetings took place in Whitehorse this week and were to move to Edmonton and Thunder Bay next week.
But in a statement late Thursday, the inquiry said the meetings need to be “reformulated” to make them more inclusive, accessible and focused.
Inquiry commissioner Qajaq Robinson said the Whitehorse meetings showed the panel that things needed to be done differently.
“We are pausing to learn from those lessons,” and work to improve our communications, our engagement, and move forward in a better way.”
The inquiry has been criticized for failing to adequately contact survivors and families of victims.
However, this latest postponement isn’t helping families have faith in the process.
Michelle Mainville-Atkinson told CBC News she was going to travel a thousand kilometres from Manitoulin Island to Thunder Bay, Ont., for next week’s meeting. She found out through Facebook the meeting had been cancelled.
Mainville-Atkinson’s daughter, Cheyenne Fox, was found dead at the bottom of a Toronto high-rise almost four years ago. She was supposed to advise the commission on how to proceed with hearing testimony from families.
The commission has asked families and survivors who want to share their stories to notify it by email or a toll-free number, but advocates say the commission should be initiating contact.
The inquiry said it has informed families, survivors, and community members who had planned to participate in the Edmonton and Thunder Bay meetings.
No new dates for the meetings have been set.
The inquiry is tasked with recommending “concrete actions to remove systemic causes of violence and increase the safety of Indigenous women and girls in Canada,” the federal government says.
It’s slated to provide recommendations in an interim report by Nov. 1, 2017 and a final report by Nov. 1, 2018.