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TO ALL NEWS EDITORS
MEDIA ADVISORY

Downtown Eastside Women’s Group Responds to National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

What: Press Conference with February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee
When: Tuesday January 12 at 10 am
Where: Aboriginal Front Door, 384 Main Street, corner East Hastings, Vancouver.

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee is hosting a press conference on Tuesday January 12 at 10 am at the Aboriginal Front Door with key issues and recommendations for a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The following day, on January 13, members of the Committee and other family members, survivors and frontline organizations will be attending the pre-inquiry design process meeting in Vancouver convened by three federal Ministers.

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee was founded in 1991 when a woman was found murdered on Powell Street. For 26 years, the Committee has been a leading voice on the issue and has raised local, national, and international attention on violence against Indigenous women. The February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee includes family members, frontline workers, close friends and loved ones with decades of in-depth knowledge and intimate experience.

Women in the Downtown Eastside lead an annual march on February 14th because women, especially Indigenous women, face physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence on a daily basis. Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the Downtown Eastside still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Fay Blaney: 778-714-0161
Carol Martin: 604-445-9923
Myrna Cranmer: 604-215-0264
Mabel Nipshank: 604-809-6504
Evelyne Youngchief: 778-888-1687

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INDIGENOUS AND WOMEN’S GROUPS JOIN THE CALL FOR JUSTICE FOR CINDY GLADUE

PRESS RELEASE- April 2, 2015

Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee (WMMC) joins numerous local women’s and social justice groups along with 22 other cities and communities across Canada to honour Cindy Gladue’s life and to demand justice. We demand an appeal of the acquittal of her killer by the Crown Prosecutor’s Office in Edmonton.

Today,10:30 am, the WMMC will host a rally at the BC Supreme Court, located at 800 Hornby Street, Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish Territories, to protest the verdict that acquitted Ms Gladue’s murderer.

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25th Annual February 14th Women’s Memorial March needs your help

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March began after the brutal and tragic murder of a Coast Salish woman in Vancouver’s downtown eastside (dtes). Women from the community were so outraged by the manner in which she was murdered and fed up with the continued violence against women in the community. The women organized a march through the downtown eastside to raise awareness around violence against women.

The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is sponsored by organizations and individuals like you. The march is held to honour and grieve the loss of the lives of women who die each year due to violence and to remember the more than 32 women who are still listed as missing. Each year the Memorial March committee must raise funds to pay for such things as hall rental, sound system, food, red & yellow roses, memorial brochures, posters, candles, tobacco and other expenses. If you would like to sponsor one component of this years march please call Mabel at 604 681 8480 ext 222 or email housing1@dewc.ca or Alice Kendall at 604-681-8480 ext 223, email center@dewc.ca.

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– Please forward this notice to your friends, family, and networks –

TWO EVENTS: MON FEB 13TH and TUES FEB 14TH

Murdered Women, Missing Justice
Monday February 13th from 9:30 am till 2 pm.
Rally outside Sham Inquiry 701 West Georgia (Georgia and Granville)

Every week since the beginning of the Sham Missing Women’s Inquiry, the Women’s Memorial March Committee has been rallying to denounce the disrespect and injustice happening inside. Dozens of DTES, Aboriginal, and Women’s organizations were shut out from participating in the Inquiry. Now we are hearing numerous stories, directly and as reported in the media, of family members outrage and anger and frustration with this inquiry as there are no answers, no apologies, and authorities are just protecting themselves and each other. We invite you all to join us – for five minutes or five hours – on Monday Feb 13th to show your disgust at this coverup sham inquiry and to call instead for for a new fair, just, and inclusive Inquiry that centres the voices and experiences and leadership of women, particularly Indigenous women, in the DTES.

See Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and Women’s Memorial March Committee Statement of Non Participation In Sham Inquiry from Oct 2011:
https://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/non-participation-sham-inquiry/

followed on Tuesday by…

21st Annual Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March

Web link: https://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/236552276421022/
Download poster and distribute it here

The first women’s memorial march was held in 1991 in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Her name is not spoken today out of respect for the wishes of her family. Out of this sense of hopelessness and anger came an annual march on Valentine’s Day to express compassion, community, and caring for all women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Unceded Coast Salish Territories. Twenty one years later, the women’s memorial march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women.

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Women’s Coalition of the Downtown Eastside:
Women’s Safety 24/7

Women’s Coalition of the Downtown Eastside is a newly formed network of women-serving organizations and women’s groups in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. Our purpose is to advance women’s issues in the Downtown Eastside and to ensure the safety of women in this neighbourhood as a priority and a necessity.

We envision safety for women in the Downtown Eastside in a holistic manner. It includes safety for women from sexual and physical violence as well as safety from the daily indignities of poverty. We advocate for safe housing, safe services, and safe shelters for all women in the Downtown Eastside.

We observe how most services and spaces in the Downtown Eastside are either for men, or are co-ed spaces which default to men. Women in the Downtown Eastside deserve more choices in services which will meet their
diverse needs and experiences. All groups and services, including co-ed ones, need to embrace a women-centred philosophy and should implement practices that ensure women’s access and safety.

We will serve as a communication and network hub amongst service providers and women’s groups. When appropriate, we will work together to develop joint proposals. We prioritize the participation and engagement of women living in this community to identify how best we can meet their needs.

We are painfully aware of the particular experience of Aboriginal women, over-represented in this low-income neighbourhood and who have been marginalized for far too long. This is most evident in the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women in the DTES.

We are inclusive and invite those who share our philosophy of serving women and are working to promote and ensure women’s safety to join us. We invite all individuals and organizations to support the work of our Coalition.

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
WISH Drop-In
DTES Power of Women Group
Feb 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee
YWCA Crabtree Corner
Aboriginal Front Door Society
PACE Society
Battered Women’s Support Services
Inner-City Women’s Initiatives Society/DAMS
Saint James Community Service Society
Atira Women’s Resource Society
Union Gospel Mission

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Over the past two months a growing group of women residents of the Downtown Eastside as well as a coalition of DTES and women-serving organizations have been raising the urgent issue of women’s safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. This has come in response to a number of reported sexual assaults in DTES shelters.

We have been dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in the Downtown Eastside. We have been outraged that all four of our correspondences have been ignored. We have been shocked that our delegation to BC Housing in March 2011 was met with a heavy presence of police and we were shut out from any dialogue on this issue. All this suggests to us that BC Housing as well as city and provincial officials do not consider women’s safety a priority within their funded facilities.

Sexual assaults against women in this neighbourhood are normalized as we have seen with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women. Women should not have to “choose” between the indignity of homelessness and being warehoused in shelters, and the high-risk of assault associated with both. We will not remain silent or complicit and are continuing a grassroots campaign based on three core demands that we believe can and should be met in a timely manner.

We are calling for:

1) A 24 hours low-barrier women-only (includes all self-identified women) drop-in space and shelter in the Downtown Eastside, ideally on Hastings Street between Main and Jackson. The establishment and operation of this service should be done through an accountable process including a transparent call for tenders and in consultation with community organizations and DTES resident women.

2) Housing for homeless women and children with at least 100 new units to be made available immediately.

3) Clear provincial standards for women’s safety in co-ed shelters to be implemented immediately in all existing and new shelters, including but not limited to:

• Women-only facilities in co-ed shelters with adequate women-only beds and services within those spaces.

• Women staff and training for all staff by women’s organizations experienced in issues of sexual and gender violence. Shelter contractors must demonstrate the ability to ensure safety and security for women shelter users and all staff must be able to demonstrate an understanding of gender inequalities that contribute to violence against women.

We are calling on allied groups, communities, and individuals to support us. Please get involved and spread the word!

For more information email project@dewc.ca or call 604 681 8480 x 234.

Website: https://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/

* HOW TO SUPPORT:

1) PETITION: Please sign our online petition. We are hoping to gather 5000 signatures in two weeks and need your help to make this happen! Link to petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/DTESsafe/petition.html

2) ENDORSE: If you are a member of a DTES organization, women’s group, social justice collective, community centre, union, or campus group, we request that you please endorse our three demands by emailing hwalia8@gmail.com or calling 778 885 0040.

Our current list of endorsers include: Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, DTES Power of Women Group, WISH Drop-In Centre Society, Walk4Justice, Battered Women’s Support Services, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, PACE Society, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, Vancouver Status of Women, Oxfam Canada, No One Is Illegal Vancouver, Vancouver Action, Council of Canadians, Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, Streams of Justice, Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, Carnegie Community Action Project, Purple Thistle Centre, W2 Community Media Arts Society, Life Skills Centre , Ending Violence Association of BC, Portland Hotel Society, Pivot Legal Society, UBC Centre for Race Autobiography Gender and Age studies, Interfaith Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements, Women Against Violence Against Women, Aboriginal Front Door, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Simon Fraser Universtiy Women’s Centre Collective, University of Victoria Women’s Centre Collective, Indigenous Peoples’ Solidarity Movement Ottawa, York University Free Press

3) WRITE-IN: We are requesting that everyone to please send an email along the lines of the below to all of the following people in BC Housing, City Council, MLA’s and MP’s. Email addresses compiled here:

rich.coleman.mla@leg.bc.ca, yourvoice@christyclark.ca, sramsay@bchousing.org, dmcmann@bchousing.org, MMcNeil@bchousing.org, gregor.robertson@vancouver.ca, lranton@vancouver.ca, Ellen.Woodsworth@vancouver.ca, clrcadman@vancouver.ca, clrchow@vancouver.ca, clrdeal@vancouver.ca, clrjang@vancouver.ca, clrlouie@vancouver.ca, clrmeggs@vancouver.ca, clrreimer@vancouver.ca, clrstevenson@vancouver.ca, harry.bloy.mla@leg.bc.ca, stephanie.cadieux.mla@leg.bc.ca, mary.polak.mla@leg.bc.ca, ida.chong.mla@leg.bc.ca, mable.elmore.mla@leg.bc.ca, Jenny.Kwan.MLA@leg.bc.ca, daviel@parl.gc.ca, Davies.D@parl.gc.ca, Dhaliwal.S@parl.gc.ca, Fry.H@parl.gc.ca, Murray.J@parl.gc.ca, Siksay.B@parl.gc.ca, Julian.P@parl.gc.ca, Dosanjh.U@parl.gc.ca

RE: Safe Housing and Safe Services for Women in the DTES

It has come to my attention that for the past two months a coalition has been raising the urgent issue of women’s safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. I have been dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in the Downtown Eastside. Sexual assaults against women in this neighbourhood in particular are normalized and their safety is not considered of highest priority as we have seen with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women. This would never be acceptable in any other part of town. I support the call for a 24 hours drop-in space and shelter for women in the Downtown Eastside, housing for homeless women and children, and clear protocols to be established within co-ed shelters.

Sincerely,
(NAME, ADDRESS, CONTACT INFO)

* BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

– Open Letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson “Women Respond to Sexual Assaults in Downtown Eastside Church Shelter While Shelter and City of Vancouver Ignore Reports” http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6390

– Press Release “Women Respond to Comments by Reverend Ric Matthews of First United Church; Reiterate Calls for 24-hour Women’s Shelter and Safe Housing in DTES” http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6496.

– Press Release “Women’s Action in Downtown Eastside for Women’s Safety” and Open Letter to BC Housing: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6692

* SELECTED MEDIA:

– Video of press conference: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/video/press-conference-women-respond-sexual-assault-dtes-shelter/6484

– Podcast of Vancouver DTES women’s groups shut out of B.C. Housing office: http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/pivot-legal-society/2011/03/vancouver-dtes-womens-groups-shut-out-bc-housing-office

– Women rail against violence in shelters: http://www.theprovince.com/news/assault+protest/4488619/story.html

– Safe Housing, Safe Shelters and Safe Services for Women: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/vancouver-politics-and-service-provision/6707

– More emergency shelter spaces needed for women, Vancouver council hears: http://www.straight.com/article-382418/vancouver/more-emergency-shelter-spaces-needed-women-vancouver-council-hears

– Women’s groups outraged over sexual assault comments: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/03/02/bc-first-united-church-sexual-assaults.html

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