“Maybe this is what they’ve been waiting for.”

As the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls opened its doors to NWT residents on Tuesday, Liza Charlo-Pieper described the three days of hearings as “vitally important” for affected families.

“The families’ stories need to be heard, their voice needs to be heard,” Charlo-Pieper, president of the NWT Native Women’s Association, told Cabin Radio.

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“Maybe this is what they need … because they’ve never had that opportunity, a national inquiry that’s been held in Yellowknife.”

‘Not a lot of help’

The community hearings are now expected to feature testimony from 40 families, a number that has increased as more people come forward and ask to speak.

Day one saw the Meyer family tell the inquiry’s commissioners about Angela, an Inuit woman who was 22 when she went missing in 2010. Angela had been diagnosed with schizophrenia; she was last seen stepping outside the family’s Yellowknife home for a cigarette, shortly before she had been due to travel south for mental healthcare she needed.

More: Read Angela’s story on CBC Missing & Murdered

“There was not a lot of help [in the North] for Angela when she was a teen. I don’t think there still is,” her mother, Kathy, told the inquiry.

Her father, Dean, said it had been ‘heartbreaking’ to go with Angela for treatment in the North. “She went through so many doctors and psychiatrists. They all changed her medications,” he explained.

Continued support

Despite an RCMP search operation, Angela was never found. On Tuesday, the Meyers used their daughter’s case to appeal for more mental health supports in the Northwest Territories.

During an interval following the Meyers’ testimony, Charlo-Pieper said: “I would like to see some solutions and answers on how to help families that are affected. More on prevention and a continued support system to help families that go through this type of crisis in their life.”

Alongside scheduled hearings, the inquiry has provided statement gatherers to work with members of the public who walk in without prior arrangement and wish to be heard. The hearings and walk-in opportunities continue from 9am until 5pm on Wednesday and Thursday, with live streaming on the inquiry’s Facebook page.

With files from Jesse Wheeler