Wednesday saw a second day of tears and stories of loss as hearings continued in Saskatoon for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
Pictures of missing or murdered women were posted in the public meeting rooms at the Sheraton Cavalier hotel as families testified in front of the inquiry commissioners.
Myrna LaPlante shared the story of her aunt, Emily Osmond.
Osmond, 78, disappeared from her property near Raymore, Sask. in September 2007.
LaPlante said RCMP searched her aunt’s land for three days, but found no trace of her despite her vehicle sitting untouched.
“She used a cane and had arthritis in her hip, so she couldn’t have walked far,” LaPlante said, adding she still believes foul play may have been involved in Osmond’s disappearance.
After the RCMP search concluded, Osmond’s family mounted a volunteer effort with support from the Kawakatoose and Montreal Lake First Nations.
LaPlante said police rejoined the search after seeing how many volunteers were coming out to look for Osmond, enlisting the help of civilian search-and-rescue groups who can only be activated by the RCMP.
But the trail went cold.
Four years later, tragedy struck LaPlante’s family again when her nephew Cody Wolf, 17, disappeared from the Muskowekwan First Nation. The missing boy led to another round of searches, including a slough in the area where he was last seen.
To this day, neither Wolf nor Osmond has been found. LaPlante said the family has had a hard time living a normal life after the losses.
“Our family has been forever changed.”
LaPlante has become an advocate on the issue of missing and murdered women since her aunt’s disappearance, helping to advise the inquiry as part of her work with the Women Walking Together group.
On Tuesday, she re-affirmed her support for the Canada-wide probe into MMIWG despite a spate of resignations and firings in past weeks, including Tuesday’s news that Nunavut lawyer Joseph Murdoch-Flowers was leaving the inquiry.
“I have always had hope,” she said.
“There’s many hiccups but the (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) went through the same thing … These things take a long time to set up, it’s not an easy process.”
Chief Commissioner Marion Buller also expressed confidence in the inquiry’s work when she spoke to reporters Wednesday morning.
“The work we’re doing will continue in a good way across Canada,” she said.
“We intend to move forward, we can move forward and we will move forward.”
Asked about calls from some Indigenous leaders to reset the inquiry, Buller said the conversation isn’t happening during hearings in Saskatoon.
“Absolutely not,” she said.
The MMIWG inquiry hearings in Saskatoon are set to wrap up Thursday as commissioners continue to work through the testimonies of over 90 registered individuals.