Families still waiting for action on Missing Women Commission of Inquiry recommendations
The report that former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal released in December 2012 following the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry touched close to home for Ernie Crey.
In January 2004, the DNA of Crey’s sister Dawn was found in the trailer where Robert Pickton lived in Port Coquitlam. And for the sake of her son, Crey had high hopes, in particular, for Oppal’s recommendation that a compensation fund be established for children of the missing and murdered women.
“For my nephew’s sake, I was hoping that they would have adopted that recommendation, as well as for the children of the other of Pickton’s victims,” the Sto:lo Nation man told the Georgia Straight by phone.
As the first anniversary of the report’s release approaches on December 17, Crey said he still hopes to see B.C. act on that recommendation. He also wants to see someone appointed to “champion” the measures outlined in Oppal’s report.
Steven Point, who was named by the B.C. government as the chair of an advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women last December, stepped down after four families of missing women launched lawsuits against the B.C. government.
“The champion was to recommend the names of folks to sit on a committee that he would work with,” Crey said. “And so between a committee like that, and someone to champion the recommendations, and I think both are critical, I think we might get more action on the recommendations.”
The appointment of a successor to Point is also being urged by the Missing Women Coalition, which consists of 25 community and advocacy groups.
Mona Woodward, a spokesperson for the coalition, said the groups want to see a woman identified for the position through community consultation.
In a meeting with Justice Minister Suzanne Anton last month, the group also asked for “immediate resources” to be dedicated to improving public transportation along Highway 16 and for compensation for families of the missing and murdered women, among other measures it identified as priorities.
“We want to know the time line. We want to know the budget. We want to know the contact person who’s going to report on the action item,” Woodward said.
She noted that the group’s meeting with Anton last month “created hope” for some of the advocates present.
“It was a very emotional time for the family members, as well as the community [members] and myself, because this has been a long time coming, like over many, many years of work,” Woodward said.
“And it’s time for action. What was communicated at that table was that we don’t need to be researched: we’re already overresearched, we’re already overdocumented. We want [a] concrete action plan.”
Woodward added that the issue of missing and murdered women continues to be a concern.
“I’m tired of wiping away the tears and blood of violence that happens in the Downtown Eastside, and I just feel strongly that the government of B.C. should follow its own recommendations,” she said.
Anton was not available for an interview with the Straight. According to a statement provided by the Ministry of Justice, the recommendation for a compensation fund is not being considered while the civil litigation is being pursued. The province has distributed about $1.4 million in compensation to family members of the missing women through the Crime Victim Assistance Program.
A status report issued by the ministry last month on B.C.’s response to Oppal’s recommendations noted that actions completed to date include annual funding for the Downtown Eastside’s WISH Drop-In Centre for female survival sex workers. Measures that are in progress include a review of training for police officers and development of provincial policing standards. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is also reviewing the transportation options available to communities along the Highway 16 corridor and is planning “targeted consultations” on the issue, according to the report.
To commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, the Missing Women Coalition is organizing a ceremony at the Granville and Georgia intersection from 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday (December 6).
Woodward noted that some progress has been made in addressing violence against women in the Downtown Eastside since her cousin Ashley Machiskinic’s fatal fall from a hotel window in September 2010, including the establishment of the Sister Watch initiative.
“This is why we fight; this is the reason,” she said. “Because I do not want women to die…when it could have been preventable.”
The national day of action marks the anniversary of the murders of 14 women at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989. Other local events on December 6 include a vigil at the women’s monument in Thornton Park (1100 block of Main Street at Terminal Avenue) at 10 a.m.