OTTAWA — The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has lost another executive director — this one after only four months.
The federally funded commission — plagued by many staffing changes throughout its tenure — said Debbie Reid, who joined in October, had left the commission. The commission said it would not comment further, calling it a personnel matter.
In a statement, the commission thanked Reid for her contributions.
Reid’s appointment followed the high-profile resignations last summer of inquiry commissioner Marilyn Poitras and executive director Michele Moreau.
Those resignations came months after Indigenous leaders issued an open letter hitting out at the inquiry for a “continued lack of communication that is causing anxiety, frustration, confusion and disappointment.”
In July, Poitras stepped down saying in a letter of resignation, “It is clear to me that I am unable to perform my duties as a commissioner with the process designed in its current structure.”
The CBC reported that Poitras, who is Métis, said she realized the vision she held was shared by few within the national inquiry, and the “status quo colonial model” of hearings was the path for most.
“Because of this, I strongly feel the terms of reference that we were set out to achieve have not been met. This is why it is with great regret and a heavy heart that I resign my position as commissioner, effective July 15,” she said in her letter.
In June, Moreau, a Montreal lawyer, cited “personal reasons” for her resignation.
In November, the CBC reported that the inquiry had lost a total of 20 people since January to firings, layoffs and resignations. In Reid’s first two months on the job, the inquiry lost seven people to firings and resignations.
The CBC also reported that shortly after being hired Reid sent an email to all staff saying the top priority was to protect the commissioners from “criticism or surprises.”
“I don’t mince words,” the CBC reported her as writing, telling staff that she was brought in to create order within the inquiry.
“Some people see me as aggressive and ‘in your face’,” said Reid in the email.
“I want to apologize in advance… if at any time my communication style upsets you. I can get very passionate on the issues that impact Indigenous people (never mind our women).”
In its statement Thursday, the commission said the inquiry’s work would not be disrupted during the transition that would see director of operations Calvin Wong act as interim executive director effective immediately.
The commission said it had a “sacred responsibility” to the 597 families and survivors who have already entrusted their stories to the inquiry and the 600 others registered to do so.
Reid is a former special adviser to the Assembly of First Nations and from the Skownan First Nation in Manitoba.
In announcing her appointment last year, Chief commissioner Marion Buller said Reid had focused her entire career on working on behalf of Indigenous people.
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett responded to the latest departure in a statement, saying she was worried the ongoing turnover at the commission would “distract from the work at hand.”
However, while she said her department shares’ families concerns about difficulties at the commission, its independence is crucial and the government won’t be intervening.
— With files from The National Post