WHITEHORSE — Canada needs to hear the truth about the violence endured by generations of indigenous women and girls so the country has a better understanding of systemic violence, is able to find solutions and heal, says the chief commissioner of a national inquiry.
Marion Buller said the hearings this week at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will hear stories of courage, resilience, healing, reconciliation and growth.
"Today is a turning point in our national history," she said on Tuesday as the hearings formally opened. "Now there is a national stage for the stories and the voices of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls through their families."
Chief Commissioner Marion Buller arrives at the inquiry tent following a media availability at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls taking place in Whitehorse, Yukon, on May 29, 2017 (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
Thirteen people, representing four families, are expected to publicly share their stories starting with testimony from survivors as well as victims' families. The hearings will continue until Thursday.
"We will hear about mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunties, nieces, cousins and dear friends. They are and were real people who loved and were loved, who dreamed and hoped, who laughed and cried," said Buller.
"This is a sorrowful but essential part of our national history. We need to recognize and understand colonization and racism. We need to heal and we need to craft solutions."
"They are and were real people who loved and were loved, who dreamed and hoped, who laughed and cried."
Other community meetings have been delayed until the fall, but Buller said the hearings are going ahead in Whitehorse because of the willingness of people in the city to participate.
Families have the option of testifying privately to a statement-taker or speaking publicly inside a white tent, where the interior walls are decorated with brightly coloured blankets created by volunteers and chairs are set up in a circle. Buller said the setting was designed to provide comfort and safety to families and survivors.
The hearings begin as the inquiry faces scrutiny across the country over delays and poor communication. Families and advocates in Whitehorse have said they are eager to share their stories, but have questions about how they will be used.
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