Canada inquiry into indigenous women hit by resignations

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women hit another roadblock on Tuesday after the resignation of a key official, the second departure from the investigation into violence against aboriginals.

The resignation of one of the five commissioners in charge of the inquiry came less than two weeks after the departure of the executive director, and added pressure to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who took office in 2015 promising to repair the relationship with Canada’s 1.4 million aboriginals.

The inquiry, launched in August 2016, vowed to push ahead with its investigation into the root cause of more than a thousand deaths of aboriginal women and girls in recent decades.

Marilyn Poitras will step down on Saturday, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls said in a statement. She cited disagreement with the structure of the inquiry. Executive Director Michele Moreau resigned in late June, citing personal reasons.

“‎We ‎want ‎to reassure the public that now, more than ever, we remain focused on this tremendously important ‎work,”‎ Chief‎ Commissioner ‎Marion Buller said in a statement.‎

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the government would discuss whether the inquiry, which is due to issue an interim report in the autumn, could continue with reduced staffing.

“Yesterday the commission felt they were more than prepared to go forward as four commissioners … but ultimately it will be up to government to decide, in consultation, as to what the next step will be,” Bennett told reporters.

Some aboriginal leaders lamented the departure, but said the inquiry must go on.

“We’re very concerned about this resignation because the work of the national inquiry is too important and we want to see it succeed for the families,” Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in a statement.

Robert Bertrand, chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents indigenous people living off of reserves, said abandoning or restarting the inquiry was not an option.

“The families of the victims, the mothers and daughters and aunts have been waiting for this for years and years. We cannot disappoint them,” Bertrand said in a telephone interview.

Many aboriginals accuse Trudeau’s Liberal government of not doing enough to help poor communities, and protests by indigenous people disrupted the country’s July 1 Canada Day festivities.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney

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