TO ALL NEWS EDITORS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONS RELEASE UN SUBMISSION DETAILS;
Submission includes urgent appeal about discriminatory conduct of BC Missing Women’s Inquiry
December 14, 2011 Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories– In the past twenty four hours, the positive and much-awaited news has been released that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women initiated a significant official inquiry process into the murders and disappearances of women and girls across Canada in October 2011.
Two women’s groups based in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, a neighbourhood known as the ‘ground zero’ for missing and murdered women, who are mostly Indigenous women, are releasing details of the submissions they made in October 2011 under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
According to Carol Martin who is Nisga’a, a victim services worker at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, and member of the February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee: “All levels of government have failed to understand or take action on those systemic injustices that allowed the unimaginable deaths and disappearances of so many women, disproportionately Indigenous, from the Downtown Eastside for decades. This is why we decided to make our voices heard at the international level.”
The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC) and February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee (WMMC) have been rooted in the Downtown Eastside for the past thirty years and have been raising issues of discrimination based on gender and race, a legacy of colonialism, institutional discrimination, economic marginalization, and the enabling environment for violence against women in Canada’s poorest postal code.
In October 2011 the two organizations made submissions to UN CEDAW in light of the failure of the provincial Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry. The organizations formally submitted that “The Commission continues the pattern of grave and systemic discrimination against women in the Downtown Eastside which the Commission was supposed to investigate.”
The UN CEDAW Committee has already repeatedly recommended that Canada engage in comprehensive investigation, analysis, and action on the issue of missing and murdered women, especially Indigenous women. But dozens of women’s, DTES, and Indigenous groups have refused to endorse or participate in the provincial government’s current Sham Inquiry. The clear failure of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry demonstrates the critical and urgent need for the international community to take on this task.
Say Marlene George and Lisa Yellow Quill “We as, Aboriginal Women are not just over-represented amongst missing and murdered women. For too long Aboriginal women and girls have been bearing the brunt of all extreme forms of violence while politicians, authorities, and others – even women’s groups – continue to grandstand on this issue. The numbers of murdered and missing women has far exceeded the ‘official’ count of 600 women. The time has now presented itself for a more global look at the ongoing tragedy of Canada’s murdered and missing women. We have inherited a horrendously violent legacy from the colonization of this continent and this country, founded on the creation of hate for Aboriginal women and everything our power and resistance represents.”
The groups also argue that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulate particular guarantees, rights, and freedoms for Indigenous women who are over-represented among missing and murdered women.
“We as Aboriginal women want to know will the Canadian government dismiss or welcome the UN Committee and it’s inquiry? Minister Ambrose has already given contradictory and duplicitous statements attempting to undermine the significance of this issue. We are sick and tired of Canada portraying itself as a champion of human rights given the ongoing legacy of theft of land and resources, impoverishment, and attempted assimilation of Indigenous nations, which is one of the root causes of the displacement of our women,” says Laura Holland from the Wet’suwet’en and Aboriginal Women’s Action Network.
The two organizations are seeking a series of remedies from the UN CEDAW Committee, including the following:
- A UN CEDAW inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered women in the Downtown Eastside which includes a country visit to Canada and specifically to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for a meeting with women residents of the DTES.
- Urging the Committee to outline the downfalls of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry and to clarify that the proceedings of this Commission do not meet the recommendations set out by the Committee in regard to missing and murdered women investigations.
The UN submissions of the DEWC and WMMC were formally supported with letters to the UN by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, PIVOT Legal Society, BC Civil Liberties Association, West Coast LEAF, PACE, WISH, Ending Violence Association, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and the DTES Neighbourhood Council.
“We have been a witness to the provincial government and federal government’s gross and unconscionable negligence as well as racism and sexism in investigating disappearances and murders of our women. This is representative of the legacy of discrimination, racism, sexism, and colonialism that leads to these tragedies in the first place. We hope that we can attain justice at the international level as we keep educating and mobilizing at the grassroots with all our other front-line groups and communities,” the groups state.
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MEDIA CONTACTS: Marlene George: 604 665 3005; Corinthia Kelly: 778 709 6494; Alice Kendall: 778 322 4594; Harsha Walia: 778 885 0040; Lisa Yellow Quill 604 618 1061; Mona Woodward 604-697-5662
The DEWC, established in 1978, exists to support and empower women and children living in extreme poverty in the DTES of Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. The Centre is unique, in that it is one of the only safe spaces within the Downtown Eastside specifically and exclusively for women and their children. It provides practical support to over 300 women and children on a daily basis. The DEWC is also committed to long term systemic change of the realities of poverty, racism, colonization, violence against women, addictions, disability, child apprehension, policing, and more which marks the lives of the women who access our space and services. Many of the women who have gone missing, have been murdered, or are survivors of violence in the DTES have been members of the DEWC.
The February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee was founded in 1992 when a woman was found murdered on Powell Street. Since then, over the past 20 years, the Committee has organized for justice for missing and murdered women and raised local, national, and international attention on the issue. An annual march on February 14th is led by women in the DTES because women, especially Indigenous women, face physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence on a daily basis. Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Every year the list of women going missing also increases and we are committed to justice.