Just three months after the embattled National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls replaced its top manager with a Manitoban, it will have to find another leader.
Debbie Reid, hired as the organization’s executive director in October, announced Thursday she is stepping down.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a statement Reid’s loss is "disappointing."
"The inquiry has lost an important role and will now have to replace the executive director Debbie Reid after a short time in that position," Dumas said. "Manitoba will once again have no significant representation at the inquiry."
Reid is from the Skownan First Nation, 280 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and has worked with the AMC and was Phil Fontaine’s special adviser when he was grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations. She also worked for 10 years with the federal government, including Health Canada, in the branch that oversees on-reserve nursing stations and the Privy Council Office (the prime minister’s bureaucracy).
At the time of Reid’s hiring, the inquiry’s chief commissioner, Marion Buller, said she was a "strong Indigenous woman with an excellent track record."
Dumas said his organization has called for the inquiry’s commissioners to be replaced before, and it asks once again for them to be removed. He said the AMC is also asking the federal government to immediately appoint a "Manitoba-specific commissioner for the inquiry, effective immediately."
"We have stated before, and will state again, that families need to be engaged in improving how the inquiry functions," he said. "This is another sad day for the families of our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls."
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett responded to the latest departure in a statement, saying she’s worried the ongoing turnover at the commission will "distract from the work at hand."
However, while she says her department shares families’ concerns about difficulties at the commission, its independence is crucial and the government won’t be intervening.
— staff / The Canadian Press