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Of a “toxic culture.” Of soul-destroying delays, high profile resignations, lost friendships and disagreements that could not be overcome.Of a fledgling commission, launched to fanfare and hope, that seemed suddenly on the brink.Most got involved when optimism was running high, and a youthful, new prime minister got behind an idea they’d spent years fighting for.Some asked that they not be quoted, concerned they’d be painted as disloyal, or that their connections to such a dysfunctional process would harm their chances of future employment.“The line I heard all the time was ‘we’re building the car and driving it at the same time,’” says Sue Montgomery, who resigned as the inquiry’s director of communications in June.“Well, call me crazy, but if you do that, you’re going to crash.” From left, Commissioners Marion Buller, Qajaq Robinson, Marilyn Poitras, Michele Audette and Brian Eyolfson listen during the announcement of the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on Wednesday, Aug. We have seen this all before, in fact: the whispers of a power struggle.
“I hope not—but I have doubts.” What’s clear, however, is that the inquiry has hit a boiling point.
Police were often late to launch investigations, many of which were haphazardly carried out; and politicians just didn’t seem to care.
Only three years ago, survivors, families of the dead and missing, and the wider Indigenous community had been galled to hear Stephen Harper, the former prime minister, say an inquiry into the issue wasn’t “high” on “his radar.” It seems additionally tragic, then, that in the 13 months since, the hope and spirit of Gatineau seems to have all but disappeared.
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the moment.
Perhaps nothing in the last decade had embittered Indigenous peoples more than white Canada’s failure to address the staggering number of Indigenous women brutalized and lost to violence, and what those losses sowed: grief, shattered families, suicides and cycles of despair.