The Canadian Press The Canadian Press

Lawyer with MMIW inquiry resigns, citing government interference

A lawyer for the National Inquiry has announced he’s resigned

A lawyer for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has announced he’s resigned, and in a statement cites government interference among his reasons.

Breen Ouellette, who worked as a commission counsel for the inquiry at its Vancouver offices, posted online that he resigned on June 21.

Breen, who is Metis, says in the statement that he believes the federal government has “undermined the independence and impartiality of the national inquiry” and that he cannot remain part of a process that he says “is speeding towards failure.”

RELATED: Final day of public hearings for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

He also asks the inquiry’s commissioners to allow him to fully disclose the reasons behind his resignation, which he says he cannot do as a lawyer.

The inquiry has been plagued by chronic delays, staff turnover and complaints from families about disorganization, poor communication and a lack of transparency.

Nadine Gros-Louis, a spokeswoman for the inquiry, confirmed in an email that Ouellette has stepped down, noting that staffing changes do occur.

“As you can appreciate, and as with all organizations, staffing does not remain constant, especially in an environment dealing with difficult subject matter where many staff work extended hours,” Gros-Louis wrote.

Breen’s statement doesn’t mention long hours. As an example of government interference, though, he said the inquiry needs to be able to properly investigate allegations of “illegal and improper” foster-care apprehensions.

“The national inquiry could use its powers to force government departments to comply with investigations into these allegations. The perpetrators could be identified so that governments could stop the misuse of billions of Canadian tax dollars by a few heartless bureaucrats seeking to advance their careers,” Breen wrote.

“However, interference by the federal government is undermining this important function of the national inquiry. Canadians deserve to know which provinces and territories perpetuate this unnecessary and harmful spending of billions of tax dollars on foster-care apprehensions.”

Last month, the government turned down a request by inquiry officials for a two-year extension in order to give commissioners until Dec. 31, 2020, to make recommendations and produce findings.

Instead, the government agreed to only extend the inquiry’s deadline by another six months. That gives commissioners until next April 30 to finish its hearings and submit a final report, instead of the initial deadline of Nov. 1 of this year.

RELATED: Search for missing women to continue

Reached late Monday, Breen said the refusal to grant the two-year-extension, along with the funding for it, shows the government isn’t serious about the commissioners meeting the inquiry’s mandate.

“They’re trying to kill the national inquiry in a death by a thousand cuts, and they’re trying to pin the failure on the commissioners,” Breen said in a phone interview from Vancouver.

Carolyn Bennett, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, explained the decision to extend the mandate by just six months was made in part because provinces and territories were not unanimously supportive of extending the terms of reference for the inquiry into next year.

Gros-Louis, meanwhile, said the inquiry remains independent and impartial.

“With diverse backgrounds, experience and expertise, we are united by a deep commitment to honour the missing and murdered, uncover the truth and build a better future for Indigenous women and girls,” she wrote.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Accused pleads not guilty as Trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder

Colin John quietly entered not guilty pleas to both charges.

Changes coming to BC Ferries reservations for Vancouver Island routes

Many customers are booking multiple reservations, inflating wait times

Ladysmith Interact Club collecting food donations for those in need

On November 22nd and 23rd, Interact Club will be at the Ladysmith… Continue reading

Caps fall to Clippers in Nanaimo on Friday night

Clippers’ tying and winning goals come in less than a minute

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

B.C. woman allegedly threatens to rip out intestines of American man

A Kamloops-area woman is accused of harassing and threatening to disembowel an American man

B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry, ride-hailing group says

Ridesharing Now for BC says it had hoped the bill would be more customer-driven like in other cities

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Awards will recognize business excellence on Vancouver Island

Nomination period begins for Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

Most Read