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MMIWG community hearings in Moncton begin Tuesday

The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is in Moncton, N.B., today for the start of two days of community hearings.

About 30 family members and survivors are expected to speak through a variety of formats — public and private hearings, sharing circle testimonies and artistic expression panels — during sessions at the Four Points by Sheraton Moncton.

Pamela Fillier is one those before the inquiry — her daughter, Hillary Bonnell, was 16 when she was killed by her cousin in 2009.

“It doesn’t end when you bury your child, it doesn’t end there,” said Fillier, a member of the National Family Advisory Circle. “It’s just the beginning of another kind of pain.”

Her disappearance from the Esgenoopetitj First Nation, a community north of Moncton, sparked an extensive search in September of that year.

Bonnell’s cousin, Curtis Bonnell, was later found guilty of killing his cousin.

‘I don’t want to see anybody else feel the way I felt. You don’t get over losing your child.’ -Pamela Fillier

As a result, Fillier spoke of a need for tougher laws across Canada.

“If you murder someone, you shouldn’t be allowed out,” she said.

“I want to make a chance to prevent this from happening to someone else.”

She described losing her daughter as a whole new pain, one that time doesn’t heal.

“I don’t want to see anybody else feel the way I felt,” she said. “You don’t get over losing your child.”

The community hearing is the first and only stop in New Brunswick.

“We are blessed and pleased … we will be listening and receiving the truth of more than 30 families and survivors for the next two days,” said MMIWG commissioner Michèle Audette.

“It’s very important we are here in this beautiful territory.”

More than 700 people have already shared their stories through the national inquiry, but it has been plagued from the start with staff turnover and concerns over aftercare, emotional and mental health support for people who have testified about losing loved ones.

“The demand of families is so huge,” she said. “They want to share their stories.” 

MMIWG Thunder Bay

Photographs of the missing and murdered are displayed during the Thunder Bay, Ont., portion of the hearings by the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. (Jorge Barrera/CBC News)

A youth panel that will include Indigenous New Brunswickers is also scheduled for Wednesday.

“It’s going to … make sure that when we write those recommendations, the youth perspective is there and we need to have this across Canada,” she said.  

The independent inquiry was initially launched in September 2016 in response to calls for action by Indigenous families and groups.

Its mandate is to “examine and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada by looking at patterns and underlying factors,” according to the website.

The proceedings are open to the public.

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