Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is in Yellowknife today to host preliminary engagements ahead of the launch of a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Bennett is in the Northwest Territories capital to meet with survivors, family members and loved ones of victims.
Those who attend today’s pre-inquiry engagements will be asked how they think the national inquiry should work, and how broad it should be in scope.
The sessions will be some of the first held outside Ottawa since the Liberals confirmed their intention to launch an inquiry, something the Conservatives said wasn’t a priority during the party’s term in office.
In Yellowknife, Bennett’s trip comes almost exactly a year after the city hosted the Walking With Our Sisters (WWOS) memorial.
The travelling art installation, comprised of nearly 1,800 pairs of moccasin tops, is meant to commemorate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in both Canada and the United States.
In the last 30 years, approximately 1,200 indigenous women and girls have either been reported missing or have been murdered in Canada alone, according to the exhibit’s website.
Gerri Sharpe was on the organizing committee when Walking With Our Sisters came to Yellowknife. She never imagined Yellowknife hosting pre-inquiry discussions within a year of the exhibit coming to town.
“I’m really pleased that it’s taking place,” she said. “I’m sure that there’s going to be great benefits that come from it. I’m even more pleased that affected family members will have input and that their voices will be heard.
“A lot of people throughout Canada put in a lot of effort to bring this to where it is now and it’s making headway.
“This time last year the outlook wasn’t as good as it is now although at the time, we knew our premier [Bob McLeod] was going to host the first talks for what this would look like here in Yellowknife.”
Those talks were eventually moved to Ottawa because of logistical problems last February. Sharpe credits both the territorial and federal government for finally moving towards a national inquiry.
“We are happy that our premier has taken a good stance and a step forward in participating and making this happen,” she said.
“We’re even happier that the Liberal government made this a campaign issue and has kept to it.
“I foresee them seeking answers as to why indigenous women in particular are susceptible to going missing or being murdered.
“We need to protect the vulnerable and this has been identified as an issue within all of Canada.”
As the commemorative exhibit travels to North Battleford, Saskatchewan next week, Bennett will continue pre-inquiry engagements in Whitehorse on Monday.