Mayor Gregor Robertson: Action must be taken on Wally Oppal's recommendations

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      Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson issued today (December 17) the following statement on the report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry:

      Our thoughts and support today are first and foremost with the families of the 67 missing and murdered women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who lost their loved ones under extremely tragic circumstances.

      We recognize the long and difficult road for the families, who will remember these women as daughters, sisters, and mothers. We also recognize the particular impact on our urban Aboriginal communities, given the significant proportion of Aboriginal women represented among the victims and those who remain missing. 

      The report released today by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is extensive and will take some time to fully review all of its recommendations. It is my hope that Inquiry recommendations are focussed on real and lasting change — systemic changes that need to happen to keep young girls and women safe, and prevent this tragedy from happening in the future — and that implementation of recommendations are timely. Further, I urge the federal government to support the call from the Assembly of First Nations to conduct a nation-wide inquiry into the more than 600 aboriginal women who have gone missing across the country.   

      We need to remember that just because an Inquiry is completed, it does not mean action is taken. The unfulfilled recommendations from the Inquiry into the death of Frank Paul are a sombre reminder that follow-through is required to enable lasting change. Given that many grassroots organizations were not provided legal funding by the provincial government to participate fully in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry – a decision opposed by Vancouver City Council – the implementation of the recommendations is critical to bringing about a small measure of closure for the friends and family of the victims.

      The health and safety of all citizens is a basic human right, which is reinforced by today being the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Sex Workers. We know first-hand the degree of violence experienced by women involved in survival sex work. Many also suffer from addictions, trauma, poverty, homelessness and other health issues. What is most frustrating is that these challenges are entirely solvable; ensuring our citizens have access to safe housing, a stable job or health services is fully within our grasp.

      The safety of women involved in the sex trade is a key concern of this Council. Last year we put in place Vancouver’s first-ever strategy to address neighbourhood impacts of the sex trade and to prevent the exploitation of children and youth. The report provided close to 40 recommendations ranging from increased housing and support services to expanding opportunities for exiting the sex trade. We also launched a task force this spring, with the goals of supporting the safety of sex workers, ensuring neighbourhood safety and preventing sexual exploitation for children and youth.

      The work that went into the Missing Women’s Inquiry may have been long, but there is no reason – or excuse - why further action should be delayed. I have directed the City Manager to begin the immediate implementation of recommendations from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry that pertain to the City, and to report back to city council in January.

      On the specific issue of a regional police force, this is an approach I have supported in the past and believe is crucial to improving public safety and policing in the region. I am hopeful that the Province will quickly commit to establishing a Metro Vancouver police force as recommended in the report.

      The release of the Inquiry’s findings has been a long time coming. All of us who serve in elected office, be it local, provincial or federal, owe it to the families and friends of the victims to move beyond words and take the steps necessary to make systemic change – change that we desperately need to prevent these tragedies from happening again.