After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

World is watching: commissioner of missing, murdered indigenous women inquiry

Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner Missing Women Inquiry
Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner Missing Women Inquiry. Photo courtesy The Canadian Press.

The chief commissioner for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women knows the world is watching her team — and she wants to assure Canadians much is happening behind the scenes even if it doesn't seem like it.

"We are moving at great speed but we are also being careful about what we are doing," Marion Buller said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Buller's remarks come after the Native Women's Association of Canada commented earlier this week on a lack of "visible progress" on the inquiry — a process budgeted to cost $53.8 million and take two years.

"Family members, loved ones have been waiting for decades to be heard,"
NWAC's president Francyne Joe said in a statement.

"We recognize that it's a big task to start a national inquiry but the lack of communication has been disappointing and worrying."

Part of the problem, Buller said, was in the way the inquiry was announced this summer, leading people to "mistakenly believe" sessions would start immediately.

"That's unfortunate that happened," she said.

"Those expectations were built inappropriately and unfortunately. However, when you look at the start times ... for other inquiries and other commissions, we are actually doing very, very well."

The five commissioners are now in the process of hiring staff and have named an executive director: Michele Moreau, the executive director of the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice.

The inquiry headquarters will open in Vancouver next week, Buller added, noting this will likely serve as a temporary space because there are plans to move on to reserve land in Metro Vancouver.

"That's where we belong," she said.

Buller, the first female First Nations judge in British Columbia, also said the commissioners are giving a lot of thought to the hearings because they will involve speaking with "real people" who are hurting.

She said she can assure the families they are carefully putting together a process that will achieve the goal of doing no harm.

"We are borrowing from the medical profession but we really want to ensure that our process supports the families before, during and after the time that they spend with us telling us their stories," she said.

"Also, we want to make sure we are culturally appropriate because indigenous cultures across Canada are radically different from each other."

Families will be given options on how to participate in the inquiry process, she noted, including the chance to speak publicly at community gatherings or in private sessions.

The hearings are not expected to start until early 2017, with an interim report due in November of next year.

"I have no doubt that the whole world is watching but I work with a wonderful team of commissioners and we share the load," Buller said.

"We are all mindful of public scrutiny ... We've had inquiries from people all over the world so we are very much aware of that."

More in News

Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?

I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.   His story begins on a desert road where a...

Vancouver's bicycle sharing grows as 15 new stations installed

Mobi bicycle by Shaw Go in Vancouver. Photo by Christopher Porter from Flickr Creative Commons

International Women's Day Concert celebrates female musicians who turned tragedy into triumph

Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.