Voice for missing First Nations women silenced

Lawyer representing aboriginals withdraws

By Suzanne Fournier, The Province, March 6, 2012

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was dealt another blow to its credibility Mon-day with the withdrawal of the last lawyer who speaks for First Nations.

Virtually all key women’s and community groups had already pulled out of the inquiry after they were denied legal funding to analyze 100,000 pages of documents.

Robyn Gervais, appointed last Aug. 12 as “independent counsel for aboriginal interests,” left the inquiry after commissioner Wally Oppal refused to hear her statement.

Gervais said she will outline 50 contentious points to the com-mission if she is allowed to speak this morning.

But she confirmed she has with-drawn due to “the delay in calling aboriginal witnesses, the failure to provide adequate hearing time for aboriginal panels, the lack of ongoing support from the aboriginal community and the disproportionate focus on police evidence.”

An emotional Gervais said that “as I leave, I regret that I could not find a way to bring the voices of the missing and murdered aboriginal women before the commissioner.”

She noted a disproportionate number of the missing women were aboriginal.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he supports Gervais.

“We worked very hard to get this inquiry, but it has become a travesty, a further injustice to the families of murdered women,” said Phillip.

Also Monday, four retired VPD officers with decades of experience talked about the difficulties of policing in an area dominated by addiction and poverty.

Former VPD constable Dave Dickson, who has worked in the Downtown Eastside for 30 years, began by objecting hotly to statements by lawyer Cameron Ward that police panels at the inquiry can’t help determine why so many women went missing.

Ward, who represents the families of 25 murdered women, told Oppal the VPD panel “will not help you get at the truth.”

Dickson took offence at that remark.

“To say I’m not going to tell the truth because I’m sitting between two police officers, I find that extremely offensive,” he said. “I waited for years to come here, to this inquiry.”

As soon as he started the beat, Dickson said, he realized the “system didn’t work for a large proportion” of Downtown East-side residents.

Former VPD inspector Chris Beach noted that although at times $1 million a day is said to flow into the Downtown East-side to various agencies, “in my 30 years of policing, the Down-town Eastside was awful when I started and awful when I left.”

“Putting more police officers on street corners isn’t going to pre-vent tragedies in the future.”

The officers agreed that addressing drug addiction, mental-health issues and poverty are more important than policing to halt violence against women.

sfournier@theprovince.com

 

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Posted on March 7, 2012, in Indigenous Women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Reblogged this on myowenamyokra and commented:
    I participated in the Racialized & Aboriginal Symposium on March 10th at Ryerson University in Toronto with Red Slam Collective. The Missing; the Invisible are always on the forefront of my mind:
    Dying Breed by Mahlikah Awe:ri 2011

    An Editor
    At McLeans Magazine Writes
    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is?
    Despite being the weaver of dreams
    Beyond forecasted prophecies
    She is?
    Despite being life giver
    Genius Genesis
    of all seeds of creativity
    She is?
    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is
    Like Indian summer
    She is here
    Then quickly gone
    She locks herself
    in attics of torment
    The elders plead for her
    Not to cut her hair
    She begs her brother
    To cut out her tongue
    So she can inhale gasoline fumes
    Into her lungs
    In silence
    The elders plead for her to join the sweat
    smudge away the violence
    She can’t
    She won’t
    She won’t blanket the truth
    Cuz truth’s blanket is as heavy
    as rocks
    Contaminated with small pox

    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is

    No round dance speaks
    to the soles of her footing
    Cuz she has no soul
    She eats paper
    Unsigned treaties for breakfast
    She drinks a cocktail of gin & water laced with lead before bed
    And instead of giving prayers
    she gives head instead
    to blank stares in
    pissed drenched alleyways and
    Nameless motels this is her Pow Wow
    This is her gathering
    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is but a dying breed
    She is

    And I
    I have passed her by
    Many a millennia
    On busy intersections
    And random street corners
    Our eyes meet
    I pull away from the glance
    Within seconds
    Turn towards the East
    Walking in the opposite direction
    I’m walking away from my sister
    Away from my sister
    Away from
    My
    Sister
    So that I will not be a dying a breed

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