Longtime local advocate Gladys Radek gave opening and closing statements in Vancouver last week during the largest, and possibly last, community hearings organized by the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“We demanded an inquiry, and now we are going to demand that they follow through with the recommendations that we pull from this inquiry, because it’s the families that are important here,” Radek said in her closing statement April 8.
The inquiry was first launched in 2016 after calls for action came from Indigenous families and organizations to examine and report on the systematic causes of violence faced in Canada against Indigenous women and girls. The inquiry heard approximately 100 testimonies over six days during its final stop in Richmond, adding to the more-than 1,000 testimonies heard since the inquiry began nation wide in May 2017.
The commissioners are now waiting to hear from the federal government on their request to extend the inquiry another two years, citing the concern that there are more families who are waiting to be heard.
“Our families are loved and valued, our nations are loved and valued, and we can put this over-500 years of genocide to rest by creating change,” Radek said.
Radek said she has listened to many of the testimonies of racism, violence and despair herself, and spoke about her niece Tamara Chipman who disappeared while hitchhiking in Prince Rupert in 2005.
“Our story is no different than any other story…there are so many other Tamaras out there,” Radek said.
If the two-year extension is granted, the time would be used to speak with experts, host roundtable discussions and open up more time to speak and hear from families during further inquiries held nationwide. She said the added time is greatly needed to complete the work they’ve done so far, and hopes others will write letters of support to government officials.
“We need everyone to say that it’s important that we complete this, we need to move forward together,” Radek said over the phone.
Lorna Brown, Radek’s sister, was in Vancouver with other members of her family, and agreed on the importance of the hearings and the amount of work still needed to be done.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her [Gladys]. I know that her voice will be loud and clear across Canada, and she has made a lot of sacrifices to do that,” Brown said over the phone. “There needs to be more than awareness, there needs to be change.”
“There is a lack of understanding and ignorance even in my own circle in the community, because this is such a big issue that sometimes people can’t wrap their heads around it.”
Radek headed to Prince Rupert on April 12 to continue her work as a family advocate for the national inquiry, and will provide insight on ways to implement the 700 recommendations from 50 reports made from past inquiries that have been put into writing but have yet to be implemented.
“Despite everything that we’ve been through, we have our laughter, we have our hugs, and we have our love. This is the love for our people that is shining through,” Radek said. “All we want to do is end violence against women.”
If the full two-year extension is not granted, the final report is expected to be complete by the end of the year before being released to the public in 2019.