This week, visitors from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are in Rankin to meet Kivalliq families for the first time.
The upcoming hearing itself, set for mid-December, is still quite a way off, but many people – myself included – are slightly relieved it has even made it this far.
It’s no secret the inquiry has been embattled of late, with commissioners resigning and staff quitting.
In fact, some families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have called for the inquiry to be shutdown and reset.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked to Laura MacKenzie about her efforts to encourage people to speak up during the inquiry’s time here.
Laura talked of her desire to give a voice to her aunt Betsy. After I spoke with Laura, I wondered what kind of impact a ‘hard reset’ would have on people like Laura. How many stories would go untold? How many female voices, gone to soon, would miss a chance to speak?
For all its flaws — and there are many – I believe the national inquiry still has the capacity to heal wounds. Commissioners aren’t waving a magic wand and saying they’ll make everything better; they are simply trying to create a space for families to speak and for voices to be heard.
That alone is a compelling goal and something worth fighting for.
But it is a difficult task. It will undoubtedly re-open old wounds for some people that listen to, or speak of, what happened to their sister, mother, daughter, aunt or friend. But the power of words to help and to heal, and the easing of burdens that sometimes follows the telling of a trauma, are reasons to keep the inquiry alive.
It’s certainly not a fix-all. But it might be an important step along the path to wellness for some families, who have been left scarred by deaths and disappearances. It might also help those that felt ignored.
This week, those people will have the chance to put their names down as speakers for the December hearing.
A friend of mine – an Indigenous journalist and survivor — wrote of the hopes she still held for the inquiry, last month. She asked families not to give up on it.
You could hear in her voice a deep hope that burns in the hearts of many families of the missing and murdered – a hope for justice and for reconciliation.
We should all be proud of these people giving a voice to the dead. It’s an act of strength and an act of bravery.