The federal government needs to do a better job of communicating details about a long-awaited inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, says Mag Cywink, whose sister Sonya Cywink was slain in London, Ont. in 1994.
In June, the government signaled that an announcement about the inquiry was coming soon — that didn’t happen. Families then expected details of the inquiry to be released in early July, but weeks later there has still been no official announcement.
“Even if they came out and made a statement that, ‘ok, we’re having issues with such-and-such and the date has been changed to August,’ at least that’s some word to the families that they’re working on it and we’re going to get an answer,” Cywink said.
‘Scrambling for information’
Sharon Johnson, whose sister Sandra Johnson was killed in 1992 in Thunder Bay, Ont., said families need to be kept informed about the inquiry process. She said whenever there is news, she sees families scrambling for more information on social media.
“It shouldn’t be that way,” Johnson said. “I can see the frustration from some of the families as they try to figure out what’s going on. I think we should hear from the government, in plain writing.”
Johnson also said families should be told by government what to expect when the inquiry finally launches.
Details ‘rumoured on Facebook’
The delay is the result of ongoing negotiations between the provinces and the federal government over the terms of reference that would help determine the focus and scope of a national inquiry.
A draft of the inquiry’s terms of reference was obtained by CBC News. The draft says, among other things, commissioners will be given the broad mandate to identify systemic causes of violence and recommend “concrete action” to help end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
But Mag Cywink is frustrated that she and other families didn’t hear that — or any other details — directly from the government, and she said the lack of clear communication from the federal government makes families suspicious and nervous.
“It’s all rumoured on Facebook and social media. And we heard it through a back door, through somebody knowing somebody who knew something,” Cywink said.
Don’t rush it
In Manitoba, a province once called “Ground Zero” for the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, the delays have lead to mounting anger.
“Almost every Aboriginal person here … we went and voted for [Prime Minister Trudeau]. Now, I think it was a mistake,” said Joyce Gabriel, whose 20-year-old daughter, Rocelyn, froze to death in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
And during the recent gathering of the Assembly of First Nations in Niagara Falls there was clear frustration from some First Nation leaders, who accused the provinces and federal government of ‘dragging feet’ on the inquiry.
Cywink said she’s not concerned about the timing of the inquiry. In fact, she said the federal government shouldn’t rush the process — she just wants details of that process shared with people closest to the issue, the families of the missing and murdered.