A spotlight story of mystery in Saskatchewan started the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) hearings in Saskatoon on Tuesday.
The family of Nadine Machiskinic told their story in the first public testimony to commissioners of the national inquiry, describing the investigation that went into the 29-year-old’s death.
Machiskinic died more than two years ago after falling 10 storeys down a laundry chute in Regina’s Delta Hotel.
An initial coroner’s report labelled the death “undetermined,” noting the drug and alcohol levels in her system would have made it unlikely she entered the chute herself.
A second report soon followed ruling her death as “accidental,” and stated she could’ve gotten into the chute.
After more than two years of fighting, her family forced an inquest that returned the death to “undetermined.”
“This is just not right,” said Machiskinic’s aunt Delores Stevenson, who’s been at the forefront of the family’s fight for answers.
“The fact that I’ve had to uncover everything … it should not have had to come to this.”
Stevenson criticized the RCMP, who are conducting a review of the investigation into Machiskinic’s death, for saying they wouldn’t make their own findings public.
“Where’s the accountability in that?” she asked.
Stevenson said during the fight for a proper investigation, her family has had to continually “re-traumatize” themselves by going to the media and re-telling their story.
She made several recommendations to the MMIWG commission, including setting up a family advocacy group to help shoulder the burden of telling the stories and a fund to assist caretakers of children left behind by dead relatives.
Another recommendation made by the family was to have civilian oversight to review police investigations, and for there to be real consequences for bungled cases.
“There was no real punishment for so many people making mistakes,” Stevenson said.
The woman who raised Machiskinic, Laura Apooch, also spoke briefly during the MMIWG hearing.
She emphasized she knows Machiskinic didn’t get herself into the chute, and criticized the investigators for believing otherwise.
“I am not an empty person to not know what’s going on,” Apooch said.
She added it’s been difficult to raise Machiskinic’s children since the mysterious death, partly prompting the family’s recommendations for a support fund.
The inquiry hearings are scheduled to continue until Thursday, marking the only scheduled stop in Saskatchewan.