National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Chief Commissioner, Marion Buller pauses during an interview with The Canadian Press, in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday August 31, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Chief Commissioner, Marion Buller pauses during an interview with The Canadian Press, in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday August 31, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Head of MMIW inquiry says she understands frustrations over hearing delays

The commission is set to hold its first public hearing May 29 in Whitehorse

The head of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women says the commission accepts full responsibility for delays and poor communication but more time and money are needed to finish the “tremendous work” that has already been done.

Marion Buller responded Friday to concerns outlined in an open letter from more than 30 advocates, aboriginal leaders and family members that the process is in “serious trouble.”

The problem is one of communication, Buller told a news conference at the First Nations House of Learning on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

RELATED: Call from Chilliwack for expanded MMIW inquiry to add men and boys

“I don’t think it’s a matter of leadership. I don’t think it’s a matter of staff issues. It’s our fault for not communicating the tremendous work we have already accomplished,” Buller said.

“The top priority for the national inquiry is to let the whole country know the tremendous work we have already done and the work that we plan to do and how we’re going to carry out that work.”

Buller, the first female First Nations judge in B.C., and four other commissioners are overseeing the inquiry, which launched in September and was expected to take two years and cost $53.8 million. Buller said work has begun on a new timeline and budget, but couldn’t say when details would be released.

Earlier this week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett responded to the open letter, saying she shares the concerns of family members who are growing more anxious about the inquiry.

The group, which published its comments Monday on the website of Metis artist Christi Belcourt, said it is aware the commission faces a difficult challenge, but it noted immediate action must be taken to shift the current approach and prevent damage.

Buller said she understands that some people want the commission to proceed faster and she hears the frustration of those who have waited up to 40 years for answers.

RELATED: Stetski reacts to throne speech, MMIW inquiry

But she said there are others who are telling the commission to take its time and be careful and respectful so that it doesn’t cause any more damage or retraumatize people.

“I understand where they are coming from too, because they don’t want the hurt to continue,” Buller said.

“The commissioners and I share one important concern above all, and that’s our fear of retraumatizing people,” she added. “It’s a concern we live with daily and we take very seriously.”

Buller said a lot of work has been done behind the scenes and she still expects to release the commission’s first report in November.

“There is still a lot of hope out there,” she said. “We still enjoy the support of many family members across Canada, many survivors across Canada. We continue to receive letters, emails, telephone calls of people saying we support what you are doing. We receive some great comments of what we can do better.”

Buller said the commission could have started a courtroom-like inquiry months ago because that has been done many times before, but this inquiry is different.

“We want to take a decolonized, indigenous approach to this work that will do no further harm. You can’t roll that out in a couple of months. It takes time to do it right and we intend to do it right. That’s the only way that’s fair, to honour the spirits of the lost women and girls, and to honour the spirits of the survivors.”

The commission is set to hold its first public hearing May 29 in Whitehorse in a tent instead of a courtroom.

Other community meetings won’t take place until later in the fall at the earliest.

Feb. 15, 2017: More than 100 people gathered outside the Kelowna courthouse Tuesday evening for the 6th annual Murder and Missing Indigenous woman’s memorial vigil.

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

MMIW

Just Posted

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read