With dozens of families in Saskatoon to take part in hearings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, local groups are offering support to those revisiting painful memories in their testimony.
The Saskatoon Indian and Métis Friendship Centre are offering activities for families, meals and counseling services for those who may be in need throughout this week.
Acting executive director May Henderson said a small group of people who participated in hearings in other cities helped push for the inquiry’s Saskatoon stop to offer more supports.
“They had nowhere to go. They weren’t offered anything. So they wanted Saskatchewan to be different,” she said.
Henderson said the initiative very nearly had to be cancelled as it took some time for the inquiry to agree to provide funding. The hearings started Tuesday. Henderson said the inquiry only agreed to give money last Friday.
“We didn’t know one way or another if we were going to be able to do it. We were going to give them until Monday and if they hadn’t agreed to it, we’d have had to cancel it,” she said.
The United Church also stepped in to provide funding and help with shuttle services for families from the hearings at the Sheraton Hotel to the Friendship Centre.
Henderson said they had at least 50 people come to the Friendship Centre Tuesday and were expecting more throughout the week.
“I hope it’s easing the pain —because they’re opening up wounds — and helping them to feel better,” she said.
Church group assembles ‘comfort bags’ for those attending hearings
St. Paul’s United Church put together care packages for families attending the inquiry in Saskatoon.
Minister Debroah Walker said the congregation wanted to do something to make people feel comfortable during an emotional and stressful time.
The comfort bags handed out at the registration table contain things like tissues, a journal, stress ball, wipes and sage bundles among other useful items.
“We were really mindful of thoughtful things. Things that would show that we cared and that we cared about the emotions they were going through,” Walker said.
The church also stepped up to cover the cost of a round dance at TCU Place Wednesday night. The event almost didn’t happen after funding from the inquiry fell through.
“We were kind of frustrated too because we didn’t know what was happening, but our commitment was to be nimble and responsive.”
The Saskatoon hearings are scheduled to conclude Thursday.
— With files from 650 CKOM’s Bryn Levy and Brent Bosker