Vancouver police dismiss activist's claim that gender crimes aren't taken seriously

A Vancouver Police Department media spokesperson has rejected allegations that law-enforcement officials are turning a blind eye to gender crimes in the Downtown Eastside.

In a phone interview with the Straight, Const. Lindsey Houghton said that the VPD has "dramatically" increased its police strength in the neighbourhood.

"The presence down there is greater than it has ever been," he said. "We have dedicated squads of investigators, such as those in our domestic violence and criminal harassment unit, that are ready to assist officers with investigations—whether it's in the Downtown Eastside or in any part of the city."

Earlier today, the director of Battered Women's Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, told the Straight that the VPD is not paying sufficient attention to drug-debt collectors throwing women out of windows and shaving women's heads. She alleged that a 22-year-old aboriginal woman, Ashley Mashisknic, was murdered on September 15 after being raped by three men and then tossed out of a window at the Regent Hotel.

Houghton, however, said investigators have found no evidence to indicate that Maschisknic's death was the result of foul play. Furthermore, he said that police have been unable to corroborate that any women in the neighbourhood have been thrown out of windows.

"We have seen a few cases in the past of hair-cutting or head-shaving," Houghton acknowledged. "With respect to the claims that women are being thrown out of windows, we've looked at that. We want to be able to investigate these claims....But to this date, there hasn't been any information that our investigators have received."

He stated that Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu has agreed to sit down and talk with a representative of the February 14th Women's Memorial March, which held a protest outside the police station on October 4.

MacDougall was one of three women who were arrested inside the downtown police station that evening and charged with assault by trespass after demanding a meeting with Chu.

"Certainly, a representative of the Battered Women's Support Service group is absolutely welcome to contact the Vancouver Police Department," Houghton said. "We want to be able to sit down with all of the community stakeholders and hear people's concerns."

He also pointed out that while police are aware that women have been the targets of violence in the Downtown Eastside, they have also, on occasion, been the instigators of violence.

"A couple of weeks ago, we had a very serious stabbing allegedly perpetrated by two women at Columbia and East Hastings, where the gentleman almost died," Houghton said. "If it wasn't for the efforts of the emergency services people, he would have died."

Related story: Arrested woman claims VPD won't investigate gender-targeted crimes in the Downtown Eastside

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glen p robbins

Oct 5, 2010 at 6:36pm

Is Jim Chu with Victor Wong in backing Wally Oppal?

The answer tells you everything you need to know.


Oct 5, 2010 at 7:14pm

Really happy to hear that Chu is speaking his mind on the matter. The "helpless woman" thing has been played out to death and it's good to hear that the police acknowledge female violence towards men, which is far more prevalent than any statistic will show.


Oct 5, 2010 at 9:29pm

Here we are at the beginning of the Pickton Inquiry, we have activists with serious concerns around gender crimes (against women) and the Vancouver Police Dept. has the same insensitivity that the BC Liberals just displayed with their poor judgement in appointing Wally Oppal to head up the Pickton Inquiry.

The degree of misogyny and racism being displayed by both of these male dominated groups is very dismaying, indeed!
The sad thing is that it is not much different in the rest of the world.


Oct 5, 2010 at 10:24pm

Charged with Assault by Trespass? Next it'll be assault by inhaling oxygen or exhaling carbon dioxide.


Oct 5, 2010 at 10:48pm

wow vancouver police have yet again shown their true colours!

Martin Dufresne

Oct 5, 2010 at 11:46pm

"Gender crimes not taken seriously by the cops"? Come on... They finally arrested Robert Pickton, didn't they? After... what was it, a few days? months...? Oh, a number of years... despite massive evidence...
The "assault by trespass" charge is a hoot. The next development will probably the VPD charging people for stealing the electricity expended Tasering them.
It's a bloody national shame that a group doing as important work as BWSS has to stage a sit-in to get the ear of the Vancouver Police Department on issues as heavy as rape and murder.
Enough with the cover-up and retaliatory arrests of community activists clamoring for these people to do their job!

Tami Starlight

Oct 6, 2010 at 12:44am

Time for people to hold the police forces and civil servants more accountable. All these years without public, independent driven and manged oversight into the actions of the police forces has to come to an end. THIS IS SHOCKING.

Public space - used to criminalize citizens who have every ^%&^$ right to protest and use civil disobedience/direct action.

What does it take people?

This is a class war!
Oppressions abound with criminals at all levels of civil society. (judges/politicians/police/city hall & their managers)
How obvious can this be. HOW SHAMEFUL! Total lack of concern for our women who are in the downtown eastside.

Oh, but if your well off and connected and live in Kitsilano or Delta, you have people up in arms if you're murdered.

I thought this country, called Canada was for everyone?
That all of us are equal? Regardless of gender/race/sexual orientation,, ability, etc. Well IT ISN'T.

I for one do not support this warped and unequal societies systems that are everywhere.

I support equality and anti oppression.

Time for a full inquiry into this womans death and fire Wally Oppal. That is a sham.

Demand a community directed and managed FULL investigation into the police forces and all involved in the Willy Pickton case. Including those in power and influence who maybe involved in any way, shape or form.

All my relations/Namaste

Sarah M

Oct 6, 2010 at 1:22am

This is an appalling excuse for journalism. The barest research would have documented the abundance of evidence showing that women, and particularly women living in poverty, racialized and Aboriginal women and women with disabilities, experience male violence at rates that speak to our longtime bad standing with Amnesty Interational on women's and indigenous peoples' rights. Furthermore, research would have turned up the Pickton report, which spelled things out quite plainly- racism and sexism, and stigma against sex workers did make VPD take crimes against women in the DTES less seriously.
To say that women also perpetrate violence against men is skewing reality by posing the exception to the rule as an opposing argument. Violence against women is a systemic, nationwide problem, supported by institutions that keep women poorer and in more precarious living conditions, and men in positions of power over women; it is exacerbated by racism and ableism. Yes, women are sometimes violent, but these are individual acts of violence, unsupported by systemic oppression, typically in response to male violence, and they occur very infrequently. Men are still responsible for most violent crimes against men and most violent crimes against women.
Violence against women is a well-researched issue, not a matter of opinion. This article is poorly-researched spin.

Honey Hill

Oct 6, 2010 at 2:38am

It is evading the point to transfer the onus onto woman perpetrators. We all know that there are violent crimes done by both men and women. This is not news, but the end of the article made it seem like we should be surprised. It is also common knowledge that women are considered more expendable...especially women who are poor or disadvantaged. Time to end this. These women who refused to leave, so that they could make this point are modern day heros. I am relieved that they were not mistreated any more than having been arrested.

Robyn O

Oct 6, 2010 at 6:53am

It's also about who the police want to serve and protect, who is an important member of society. Drug addicts are seen as miscreants instead of just as worthy as property owners, working professionals, etc. We need to see the value in every individual, not matter what afflictions they may have. Yes there is violence done by women directed at men, but the point is we have to end violence against humans. We need to reconstruct our violent culture. It begins with valuing everyone and being better for one another.