A Yellowknife resident is still looking for answers about what happened to his missing mother more than 40 years ago. James Jenka says delays in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are causing confusion.
In July, the inquiry announced it would hold a hearing in Yellowknife during the week of Nov. 13.
However, their website now indicates it will take place sometime in January 2018.
It is unclear why the change was made. No one from the inquiry responded to requests for an interview before press deadline.
A news release posted to the inquiry website Monday, but which is dated Oct. 20, states those involved in the process are working on determining a hearing date that works for those who want to participate.
“I don’t know what’s going on in higher up, why they’re postponing, why it seems unorganized,” said Jenka, who is originally from Fort Chipewyan and wasn’t yet a teenager when his mother went missing in the early 1970s.
Jenka was raised by his grandparents and did not live with his mother. He said it is believed she travelled south and went missing in Edmonton.
For years, he thought her disappearance had been reported but, in fact, that didn’t happen until about three years ago, he said.
Jenka had hoped to take part in the upcoming hearing in Yellowknife and talked to organizers about his mother’s case when they made a preliminary visit to the city in August. At the time, they indicated the hearing would take place in November, he said.
Tuesday was the first he’d heard of the change.
“I was part of the … residential school inquiry. In the beginning it was a little rocky. But this is too long,” said Jenka. “When they schedule things, they’re putting the word out there and people are expecting it to happen. And all of a sudden they pull back for whatever reason. It leaves us questioning things.”
The national inquiry has been heavily criticized as it’s made its way through communities, with some families expressing concerns about delays and a number of staff resigning from the inquiry.
It is intended to examine systemic violence against Indigenous women and girls and provide recommendations.
Dean Meyer, however, said he is glad the Yellowknife hearing will take place next year, so his family can enjoy the holidays without having to go through the process right beforehand.
His daughter, Angela Meyer, was 22 years old when she went missing from the city on Nov. 27, 2010.
Angela, who dealt with schizophrenia, had been staying at Stanton Territorial Hospital when she was signed out for a weekend visit and disappeared from her parent’s home during a smoke break outside.
Meyer said he plans to make a submission to the inquiry addressing the need for more mental health facilities and education in the NWT.
“I don’t think that’s going to help me feel anything better,” he said. “I’m not going to stand up and give my story again because I’ve done it so many times.”
Jenka also expressed doubt about how much the inquiry can do for families.
It’s more about bringing the issue to light, he said, adding he has several family members who have gone missing over the years, besides his mother.
“It’s an inquiry, it’s a commission right,” he said. “Recommendations are all they can do at the end of it … but she’s out there somewhere. She’s out there. Somebody knows what happened. Now it’s finding those people that know.”