Families who testified at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Edmonton left the hearings with mixed emotions, as they ponder what happens next.
Melanie Dene testified in a public hearing about her cousin Shelly, who went missing in Edmonton in 2013. Leading up to the hearing, she was nervous and apprehensive.
But at the end she was glad she made her voice heard.
“When it was done, I felt a sense of relief,” Dene said. “I hope what we did as families for our loved ones will prevent more families in the future from having to come down this road.”
Dene shared some of her frustrations with how police initially handled Shelly’s missing persons report, as well as as broader systemic issues of racism in the judicial and child welfare systems.
She also made several recommendations, including creating more safe spaces specifically for Indigenous people in urban centres, as well as forming a national police task force dedicated to Indigenous peoples who have gone missing or been murdered.
“My biggest question was what is the outcome of this – what are you, as the commissioner, hoping to see out of this? What is the government’s action plan after this?”
She said Chief Commissioner Marion Buller did not have a clear answer for her, but she’s hopeful the result won’t be “another report”.
Paul Tuccaro travelled from Fort Chipewan to speak about his sister, Amber, who went missing in 2010. Her remains were found in the same area two years later.
Tuccaro was feeling frustrated about the lack of organization leading up to the event, and left with similar emotions.
“They could have done a lot of things differently,” Tuccaro said. “I don’t think putting families through reliving their stories and going through all those feelings and emotions, for them to say it’s a learning process, it’s not fair to anybody.”
It was an emotional day for Tuccaro, as he testified about how his sister’s belongings were destroyed by the RCMP even though no one had been charged in her death. While there were elders comforting the families at the hearing, there was no support after the fact, Tuccaro said.
But ultimately, he too is glad he made the trip. He’s encouraged to see his words are now documented, and he also appreciated connecting with other families who have lost loved ones.
Tuccaro made two main recommendations to the commission: He suggested a better process for reaching out to families, instead of putting all the onus on families to reach out to the commission.
Furthermore, he wants to see more transparency from police when it comes to missing persons reports, instead of just hearing “we’re working on it”.
“It will be interesting to see if they do take our recommendations into consideration,” he said. “Because we’re the ones going through it.”
Chief Commissioner Buller was scheduled to hold a press conference on Thursday, but cancelled it to hear from more families. The next community hearing will take place in Saskatoon, Sask. during the week of Nov. 20.
This story was originally published in Metro Edmonton.