For the first time, families are speaking in Montreal at the federal inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Watch the testimony live in the video stream above. Read one family’s story below.
Early one morning later this week, Johnny Wylde will pack up his car and travel 600 kilometres to Montreal to tell the story of how his daughter went missing — and how police have not yet solved her case.
Wylde, his wife Émilie Ruperthouse-Wylde and their two daughters, live in the Algonquin community of Pikogan, north of Val-d’Or. Like other families across Quebec, they’re planning to make the trip to the big city to attend the hearings into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Wylde’s daughter, Sindy Ruperthouse, disappeared in April 2014.
“I want to tell the real story, the real story we’re living,” Wylde said in an interview.
Ruperthouse was last seen at the hospital in Val-d’Or.
She had been beaten up by a boyfriend, according to her mother, and had serious injuries, including multiple broken ribs.
She hasn’t been seen since she left the hospital.
Frustrated with Quebec provincial police, Ruperthouse’s relatives launched their own search, posting billboards and organizing volunteers to comb through the woods.
The family’s efforts have had far-reaching consequences, helping to shine a light on policing problems in the Val-d’Or area and, ultimately, prompting a provincial commission into the way Indigenous people are treated by police and other authorities.
The Viens commission, as it’s known, is holding hearings this week in Montreal at the same time. The fact that the federal inquiry has scheduled its hearings in Montreal for the same week is a symptom, critics say, of the federal inquiry’s mismanagement and lack of communication.
However, Wylde said he will focus on the federal inquiry this week. He isn’t certain yet if his testimony, scheduled for March 14, will be open to the public, but he wants it to be.
“I want people to know what’s happening,” he said.
Inquiry beset by controversy
The federal inquiry, beset by delays and controversy, originally didn’t have hearings scheduled for Montreal.
Families demanded hearings in the province’s biggest city last fall when the commission travelled to the Innu community of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, nearly 900 kilometres from Montreal, on Quebec’s North Shore.
Now, they will be in Montreal all week.
Viviane Michel, head of Quebec Native Women, an umbrella organization representing Indigenous women across the province, commended families for travelling from far and wide to have their voices heard.
Her organization, though, has pushed for the inquiry to take a more concrete approach, to ensure police and other authorities are held accountable for their lack of action.
“We fought a long time to have this commission,” she said. “We want to make it work.”
Wylde, for his part, said he hasn’t prepared any comments.
He doesn’t need to.
“We’ve been living with this for four years,” he said. “I know what I want to say.”