Sask. woman pleased her brother's story heard by national MMIWG inquiry
The families gathered this week in Saskatoon at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls all have stories of loss and pain.
Colleen Whitedeer is one of those family members. But her story is different.
She testified this week about her brother Timothy Charlette, who has been missing since 2014, in hopes of pushing the inquiry to include missing and murdered Indigenous men.
"At the end of the day, the men are human beings and my pain, my mom's pain, is no different than the majority of the families here," Whitedeer said Wednesday while attending the inquiry.
'We've settled this issue': Buller
Marion Buller, chief commissioner of the inquiry, says it's her understanding that men are included when they are connected to a case of missing or murdered Indigenous woman or girl.
In Whitedeer's case, for example, her brother went missing along with his girlfriend, 36-year-old Beatrice Adam. Adam's body was found in the North Saskatchewan River, but her brother's body was never recovered.
"It's kind of filling in bigger picture for us," Buller said on Thursday morning.
Buller says while hearing stories of missing men can provide a bigger picture around violence affecting Indigenous communities, the debate over whether or not the inquiry will focus on men has long been settled.
"This is not a new issue — as far as I'm concerned we've settled this issue," Buller said.
Whitedeer and her family testified in a closed door hearing, but she said she is continuing to speak out about her brother's case.
'The men are being ignored': Whitedeer
Whitedeer's brother was last seen at a bridge north of Prince Albert, Sask., with his girlfriend. They were both reported missing.
His girlfriend's body was found in the North Saskatchewan River a few days later, but so far nothing has turned up about Charlette's disappearance.
"I want to commend all the women who've done the work in the past to bring attention to this huge imperative issue that has been ignored," Whitedeer said.
"And now in the same context, the men are being ignored."
Whitedeer has been holding walks to raise awareness about her brother's case. She has also previously called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous men.
She was surprised, she said, that she was invited to testify in Saskatoon. But she said the staff at the inquiry were caring and welcoming.
Whitedeer said she was one of two families who testified in Saskatoon this week about missing or murdered Indigenous men. She said she's optimistic that all the stories heard this week will form the basis for some real change.
She's been critical of the police's handling of her brother's case and she hopes some of the inquiry's recommendations include requiring more Indigenous involvement in local and city police.