Human Rights Watch will not disclose identities of female aboriginal whistle blowers
A New York–based human-rights group says it will stand by B.C. victims of alleged police abuse who've asked that their identities be kept secret.
"If the government is committed to accountable policing, it should address the flaws in the policing system that leave indigenous women and girls feeling they have nowhere to turn for a safe, effective investigation of their complaints," Meghan Rhoad, women's-rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a news release issued today.
Rhoad led a Human Rights Watch probe into RCMP mistreatment of indigenous women and girls in northern B.C. She made the statement in response to calls from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Mounties for aboriginal people to file complaints.
That came after Human Rights Watch issued an 89-page report outlining alleged RCMP mistreatment of indigenous women and girls in northern B.C. The document included allegations from some women that they were raped by officers.
Human Rights Watch maintains that the prime minister's remark ignores the women's fear of retaliation.
B.C. Civil Liberties Association president Lyndsay Lyster made a similar observation.
"There are good reasons why these indigenous women who have alleged horrific abuses on the part of the police in northern B.C. have chosen to remain anonymous, including the fear of retaliation and stigma," she said in a BCCLA news release. "There is no need to have their identities revealed for the government and police to take a serious look at the problems that have plagued police relations with First Nations for years."
Human Rights Watch revealed today that Harper's office declined its request for a meeting. Tomorrow, Human Rights Watch will meet with the RCMP at E Division, which oversees policing in B.C.
In addition, the researchers are also meeting with the Independent Investigations Office in B.C. today.
“We would like to be able to share the full details of the allegations of abuse we uncovered with the IIO, but the office is hamstrung by its limited mandate,” Rhoad said in the news release. “You can’t expect indigenous women and girls to come forward when some of the most egregious crimes against them have been excluded from the one existing institution that offers a meaningful, safe way to bring complaints.”
Former Vancouver city councillor Ellen Woodsworth told the Georgia Straight before the annual women's march in the Downtown Eastside that she's "so glad" that Human Rights Watch has drawn attention to this issue.
"It's very clear to me why they don't feel safe to go to the RCMP because they're so isolated in small communities," Woodsworth said. "There's no place to go, and until very recently, the police have not been at the table to create the safety where they can speak out against the [alleged] violence that they're experiencing from the police and the RCMP."
Meanwhile, the federal NDP has taken up the report's call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
NDP status of women critic Niki Ashton has claimed that it's a "disgrace that in a country like Canada, women have so little trust in the police".
“A national, open inquiry is the only way to get justice for the women who have been murdered as well as their families and communities,” Ashton declared in an NDP news release. “Successive governments have failed Aboriginal women. Continuing to ignore this national tragedy is unacceptable and will not make it go away.”
With files from Yolande Cole