Year After Year – marching for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: By Cecily Nicholson

jwomens-memorial-posters-003Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Women continue to go missing or be murdered with minimal to no action to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism. In light of the sham provincial inquiry, we are calling for a national and international public inquiry that is led by family and community members and that centers their experiences, need for healing, and quest for answers, concrete action, and meaningful justice.
        – February 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March Committee

We are completely frustrated and disgusted with the unwillingness and inaction on the part of the provincial government.
– Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs

They are blind to Indigenous, First Nation’s people, people of colour, people below the poverty line, we continue to be missing from these processes. They are unable to hear and respond. The Inquiry was not to protect us.
– Carol Martin, Victim Services Worker, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

Women sing during a protest outside the Missing Women's Inquiry in Vancouver, British Columbia June 6, 2012. The inquiry, which is in its final day of arguments, is probing why it took so long to catch serial killer Robert Pickton, who is believed to have killed more than 20 women before he was arrested in 2002. REUTERS/Andy Clark (CANADA - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)
Women sing during a protest outside the Missing Women’s Inquiry in Vancouver, British Columbia June 6, 2012.

It has been over a year since community members were subjected to the Sham Inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of women who lived and worked in the Downtown Eastside, and its investigation into the failure of the RCMP, Vancouver Police Department, the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia to protect these vulnerable women. As the implementation of recommendations remains largely incomplete, and authorities continue to deny responsibility, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has served to protect those who should be held the most accountable.

Downtown Eastside, Aboriginal, and Women’s organization’s participation in the Inquiry was never supported. Family members were outraged and frustrated with a process that provided few answers. It was another example of silencing, and a continuation of the systemic oppression experienced especially by Indigenous women.

Although sweeping changes were recommended, the BC government has yet to implement the vast majority of the recommendations, with limited work started on only some of them.

feb14womensmemorialmarch2013_dmgillis-copyThe Inquiry identified systemic, police failures that allowed a serial killer to remain at large for so long. It emphasized that more would have been done if the victims were not marginalized women from the Downtown Eastside.

The exclusions of the Inquiry process continue today.

The advisor appointed by the BC Government to oversee the report’s implementation, former lieutenant governor Steven Point, resigned in May of this past year and has not been replaced.

2012march16flux-copyThe “urgent” recommendation, calling for transportation along the Highway of Tears–Highway 16, has seen no real progress.

There has been no consultation with Indigenous elders to guide the process.

Measures to protect women in the Downtown Eastside are not in place. There is no policy stopping police officers from enforcing warrants when dealing with sex workers reporting assaults and no transparent policies to ensure “bias-free and equitable policing” have been put in place.

Funding for Aboriginal women-led organizations, services and programs has not improved. One of the only recommendations of the Inquiry that was implemented immediately was the $750,000 increase in funding to the Wish Drop-in Centre Society.

A compensation fund for the children of the missing and murdered women, as well as a healing fund for the victims’ families, have not been fully realized. A lot of time and money has been spent on legal proceedings.

2012march1flux-copyThere has been no formal acceptance of the factual findings of the public inquiry. The provincial government and the City of Vancouver said they should not be forced to accept all of the findings in Oppal’s report, because a public inquiry isn’t as rigorous as a formal trial.

So the outcomes of the Sham Inquiry are also a sham. While it comes as no surprise for many, this does not lessen our outrage.

Carol Martin, Victims Services Worker at the DTES Women’s Centre comments further:

2012march6flux-copyThis whole process reflects broader conditions that we have been living with for a long time. It is poor-bashing. Vulnerable women continue to be overlooked. There is no genuine effort to involve our community and our people. Despite the recommendation of the Inquiry, they have yet to appoint elders to guide this process. They are unwilling to share resources in order to strengthen our access. And what of the “interest of the child”? For the children who experience layers of colonization, racism, bias and violence, the oppression is thick. Meanwhile professionals and individuals control and benefit from the money. What was the cost of the Inquiry? On whose behalf? With all that in place, how do we find such a thing as “equality” let alone justice? A lot was exposed to the public, but the police were protected. With all that money they are protected and do not take responsibility. They can do no wrong. The Inquiry quieted our community. We are still healing from it, like we must heal from everything.

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