6 May 2020

Archive: Commission Counsel of Record Transcripts

Yesterday was National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls in the United States. Given my work as Commission Counsel in Canada's National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (and Two Spirit People), I began reflecting on the testimony of witnesses I assisted as Commission Counsel at the National Inquiry. My reflections turned to a desire to track down and personally archive all of the official transcripts documenting my examination work as Commission Counsel. I have decided to link to copies of those transcripts here on the blog. These transcripts include testimony from survivors of violence as well as family and friends of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people.

Jamie Lee Hamilton (right) giving testimony in Metro Vancouver, April 4, 2018.
Jamie Lee passed away on December 23, 2019. 

I am unable to include all the transcripts for testimonies which I conducted as Commission Counsel. Many testimonies were conducted in camera and subject to publication bans ordered by the Commissioners. These testimonies are not part of the public record and are not available for me to archive. Publication bans were often ordered at the request of witnesses to protect them from further harm.

Regardless of whether testimonies were given publicly or in camera, a debt is owed to all the witnesses for risking retraumatization in the hope that their testimonies would help end the ongoing genocide in Canada.

It is also notable that the first set of testimonies linked below were received by me at the statement gathering community event at Nuu-Chah-Nulth in early September of 2017. These statement testimonies differ from the hearing testimonies I later assisted across Western Canada. The Nuu-Chah-Nulth statements were received very early in the statement gathering process, before the team of dedicated statement gatherers had been fully assembled and trained. Statement testimony differed from hearing testimony in a couple of practical ways.

First, there were no Commissioners present for the taking of witnesses' statements. Statements were audio and video recorded and conducted by staff of the National Inquiry. These recorded statements were reviewed at a later date by the Commissioners. This allowed far more testimony to be received than was otherwise physically possible for the Commissioners to receive through hearings alone. The trade-off was that Commissioners were not present to ask their own questions of the witnesses who provided statements. At hearings, Commissioners often asked questions independent from Commission Counsel, and it was rare for a Commissioner to have no additional questions at the end of a hearing.

Second, statements were often taken on the spot with very little advance preparation of the witnesses by staff. At the Nuu-Chah-Nulth statement gathering, I was introduced to witnesses just prior to their statements being recorded, and I was hearing their accounts for the first time. Conversely, with hearings I would have generally have six weeks to prepare witnesses before their hearing took place. Many of my hearing witnesses realized through our hours, or even days, of preparation that they had suffered more systemic abuse than they had initially thought. In some cases, systemic issues were overlooked by witnesses because of their close proximity to the violence they had witnessed or experienced. In other cases, potentially illegal systemic abuses had occurred but witnesses lacked the legal knowledge and training to understand and place emphasis on them. The preparation time before hearings made it more likely that the witnesses' testimonies would be completely explored to identify all occurrences of systemic violence.

Below are the transcripts for the 43 witnesses for whom I assisted public testimony at statement gatherings and hearings. These are copies of the original public records also available from the National Inquiry website. Some of the transcript files were compiled with multiple testimonies, including examinations conducted by other Commission Counsel. I am unaware of the reason for merging some testimonies into a single file, but I raise it to avoid the impression that I conducted all examinations in a given transcript file. Those examinations which I conducted will specifically list me as Commission Counsel in relation to a witness or group of witnesses.

The Nuu-Chah-Nulth public statements I received as Commission Counsel:
The Smithers, BC public testimonies I assisted as Commission Counsel:
At the time of writing, I am aware that two of the above witnesses have passed away. Jamie Lee Hamilton passed away on December 23, 2019. Norman Williams passed away in January of 2020. I will remember them.
EDITED 2021-Jun-06: Removed the names of two witnesses for whom I had prepared to conduct examinations; however, due to scheduling conflicts, those examinations were transferred to other Commission Counsel to conduct. This happened a few times during the National Inquiry hearings. In one case, I transferred my file to another lawyer within an hour of the hearing. This often occurred because we needed to protect the safety of witnesses.

1 comment :

  1. Thank-you for your personal commitment to these people and this process,for your care and compassion, and for your efforts to keep these stories from fading.