Elder Marge George delivers a morning prayer during the first day of five in the last community hearing of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press)

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

The hearings have lasted all week in Richmond

A longtime advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women told her own story of abuse on the last scheduled day of public hearings for the national inquiry Sunday.

Bernie Williams, who has fought for women on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 30 years, said her abuse began at age three and continued through foster homes and a marriage, involving broken bones and brutal rapes.

One foster family forced the kids to eat from bowls on their hands and knees, like dogs, she said.

“At the age of 11 to 12 years old, six of us girls were sold into the sex trade work,” said Williams, who is now 60.

“As many of you know, I don’t wear shorts very often, because I have cigarette burns all through my legs right up to my back. … This is what we endured, we were just kids.”

Williams, who says she lost three sisters and her mother to murder, says she’s tired of seeing elders at food banks and unanswered calls for things like health, healing and wellness centres.

“Why has it taken over 4,000 women and girls’ names to secure and still keep asking the same questions,” she said.

She said it’s time to stem a tide of lateral violence — in which people in need fight amongst one another instead of against systemic problems.

READ: Traditional medicine helps heal at missing women inquiry

Metro Vancouver’s hearings on Sunday were the last that were scheduled for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, though others will continue to testify in private.

The inquiry was established by the federal government in 2015 to investigate the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and to give family members a chance to have their stories heard.

READ: Sharing truth with art at inquiry into missing, murdered Indigenous women

Chief Commissioner Marion Buller, who has said the inquiry needs more time, is expected to make closing remarks this afternoon.

Buller told the Canadian Press that the inquiry has enough material to produce a report, but it will only scratch the surface of the issues without more time.

Commissioners asked the federal government last month for a two-year extension, but Buller says it remains unclear if that request will be granted.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Two fires of note burning in Southeast Fire Centre

As of Saturday afternoon there were more than 20 fires burning in the Southeast Fire Centre.

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

RDCK publishes 2017 payments to businesses, organizations and staff

Public document details financial statements, salaries, expenses, and grants

COLUMN: Nelson in July, 1968: a leaky pool and a mail strike

Historian Greg Scott on events in Nelson 50 years ago

LETTER: Fire season and fossil fuels

From reader Diana Van Eyk

VIDEO: How to throw a frisbee

Ultimate frisbee player Amy Mackay shows off the proper technique

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattleā€™s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

PHOTO GALLERY: BC Games Day 2

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

BC Wildfire update on 14 major Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

2017 wildfires give B.C. mom chance to say thank you to officer who saved her son

An unlikely encounter in the rural community of Likely, near Williams Lake

Most Read