Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS First Nations women listen as Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, speaks during a news conference at Haida House at the Museum of Anthropology, in Vancouver on Thursday. Buller defended the process they’ve gone through so far, saying in eight months they’ve hired staff, opened offices, held their first hearing and put life to the terms of reference.

Indigenous women’s inquiry head says process moving at ‘lightning speed’

VANCOUVER — The head of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women denies the process is drifting, saying she believes it’s moving at “lightning speed.”

Marion Buller announced Thursday the inquiry will hold nine community hearings across Canada this fall, amid controversy over the resignation of its executive director and complaints from families about delays and poor communication.

Buller was asked about comments made by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, who called for Buller to step down and the inquiry to restart.

“I don’t intend to resign,” Buller replied firmly.

“Things are not drifting. We have to put this in the right context. We started on Sept. 1, four commissioners and myself and a piece of paper, our terms of reference. In eight months, we hired staff, we opened offices, we put life to our terms of reference and we held our first hearing.

“In my view, that’s lightning speed.”

Buller said the next community hearings will be held beginning Sept. 10 in Thunder Bay, Ont., before moving on to Smithers, B.C., Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Halifax, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Maliotenam, Que., and closing in early December in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

Over the summer, teams will travel to the communities to lay the groundwork for the hearings, she said.

Buller also said two expert panels will speak to the inquiry this year on the topics of Indigenous laws and decolonization and human rights.

Executive director Michele Moreau resigned last week, citing personal reasons. The Native Women’s Association of Canada noted several other staff members have also left recently and urged the inquiry to be more transparent and reassuring to families.

Buller said people are leaving for personal and positive reasons, as some have been offered “jobs of a lifetime.”

“We expect turnover in our staff and we plan accordingly,” she said. ”The work continues.”

North Wilson, the Manitoba chief who has called for Buller’s resignation, said she did not feel reassured by Buller’s remarks.

“It didn’t seem confident and it didn’t seem sincere. The tone almost looked scripted throughout,” she said. “It’s nothing against her at all in any way. I just don’t feel like it’s a person that the families are putting a lot of hope and faith in.”

North Wilson said she would like to see a chief commissioner who is better known among grassroots organizations and families. Buller comes from a legal background and was British Columbia’s first female Indigenous judge.

Lorelei Williams, a Vancouver-based advocate whose cousin’s DNA was found on serial killer Robert Pickton’s farm, has previously been critical of the inquiry. But after attending the first family hearings in Whitehorse, she said she has gained more hope for its future.

If Buller resigned, that would only delay the process further, she added.

“I became much closer to her in Whitehorse and the other commissioners, too. Their hearts are there,” Williams said. “This is a huge issue and I feel like we have to work with what we’ve got right now because our women and girls’ lives depend on this.”

Buller was also asked what she would have done differently as she reflects on the past eight months. She replied she would have “slowed down” instead of trying to push to meet time limits.

The federal government gave the commissioners a budget of about $53.9 million and asked them to complete their work by the end of 2018, with an interim report expected this November.

Buller reiterated on Thursday that she intends to ask the federal government for more time and money. However, she said she and her research team have already begun drafting the interim report and plan to submit it on time.

She said locations for hearings in the winter and spring of 2018 would be released in the coming weeks.

Here is a list of the hearings that will be held in the fall:

Sept. 10 (week of) — Thunder Bay, Ont.

Sept. 25 — Smithers, B.C.

Oct. 16 — Winnipeg

Oct. 23 — Saskatoon, Sask.

Oct. 30 — Halifax

Nov. 6 — Edmonton

Nov. 13 — Yellowknife

Nov. 27 — Maliotenam, Que.

Dec. 4 — Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Suspect arrested after collision in stolen truck

Driver faces charges in court today

WATCH: From humble beginnings Red Deer-based wrestling promotion is growing

It wasn’t that long ago that Dylon Featherstone and the Canadian Wrestling… Continue reading

WATCH: Families make yo-yos and weaved yarn at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery

It was all about making yo-yos and yarn bombing at Red Deer… Continue reading

Solve mysteries with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Red Deer

At three sold-out one act Sherlock Holmes plays in Red Deer, theatre… Continue reading

WATCH Replay Red Deer Feb. 18: Your weekly news highlights

Watch news from Red Deer and Central Alberta

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Toddler breaks leg after boot sucked into escalator at Vancouver airport

VANCOUVER — A Calgary woman is reminding parents about the dangers of… Continue reading

Liberals looking at creating use-it-or-lose-it leave for fathers, Trudeau says

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is raising the idea of creating… Continue reading

Trump gets angry about election meddling, but not at Russia

‘Weirdest thing’: Trump expresses anger, but not over Russian election-meddling

New doping charge could hurt Russia’s chance at reinstatement

Russia could lose its chance to be reinstated before the end of the Winter Olympics because of a doping charge against curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky.

#Metoo movement causing confusion in many men, fear of missteps with women: experts

Being painted by the same sweeping brush as those alleged to have mistreated women has angered men

Virtue and Moir break their own world record

Virtue and Moir break short dance record to sit first in ice dance at Olympics

Calgary man dies in Mexico following sudden illness

Troy Black was with his wife, Lindsay, in Puerto Vallarta when he began vomiting blood on Thursday

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month