The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls made a stop in Rankin Inlet this week to visit with Kivalliq families.
Six staff members with the inquiry arrived on Aug. 15 and are set to leave Aug. 17.
The visit is the first of two scheduled for Rankin and will help lay the groundwork for the inquiry's return in December, when they will be holding a formal public hearing.
The August visit included Arviat's Lillian Lundrigan and Joseph Flowers, both part of the inquiry's legal commission; Barbara Sevigny and Vicky Laforge from the inquiry's health supports; and Alana Boileau and Looee Okalik with community relations.
Okalik said the group will be splitting into two teams once it arrives in Rankin, with each team containing a member of the legal commission, health supports and community relations.
The teams will set up in two locations in order to begin in-taking families who want to speak during the December hearing.
Okalik did not disclose the locations, which are only announced to the families, she said.
“This is open to Rankin Inlet families while we're there, but we'll be accepting calls and encouraging Inuit from other communities to call in as well, so there will be more numbers for us to work with toward the community hearing in December,” Okalik said.
“There will be ongoing registration.”
People who can't register in person with inquiry staff can do so in four other ways: by phone, fax, e-mail or by writing a letter to the commission.
Okalik said once someone registers, inquiry staff will follow up with them before finalizing the list of speakers.
Community support was key
Okalik said the visit comes thanks to Laura MacKenzie, who worked with the hamlet as well as Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women's Council to invite the inquiry.
“We're respecting the individual's invitation to honour the Kivallummiut and Nunavummiut,” she said.
MacKenzie spoke with Kivalliq News in July. She said she wanted to encourage people to attend the hearing and register as speakers.
Okalik said the commission is thankful for other community support as well, particularly from Amanda Ford, who works with Victims' Services at the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre.
She said Ford has taken the initiative to post the commission's fact sheets around the community and has worked to get the word out about the visit.
“(She) ensured the community will be well-informed for our visit,” Okalik said.
Lead-up to testimony at December session
The community visit is the first step toward December's public hearing, where registered speakers will be able to give testimony about family members who have died or disappeared.
Okalik said that session will be co-ordinated by Bernadette Dean, the social development co-ordinator in Rankin Inlet with the Kivalliq Inuit Association.
“(The association) will be preparing for the community hearing with our support, and they'll identify who their elder or elders will be at that hearing, where it will take place and what ceremony will take place to acknowledge the territory and families,” she explained.
“They'll be working together with Kivallummiut (to) prepare the best that we can for the community hearing.”
Speakers who register can decide to share in public or in a private session.
Both the hearing and August's community visit will be conducted in Inuktitut as well as English, since most of the staff members speak Inuktitut.