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Coalition Demands Action on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Makes Preliminary Recommendations for National Inquiry

    November 09, 2015

    (Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – November 9, 2015) A Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is holding a press conference this morning to advise the public that British Columbia has failed to make significant progress on many of the recommendations from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (MWCI) and continues to ignore international recommendations from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).  Given their experience with the MWCI, the Coalition is making preliminary recommendations to the newly elected Trudeau Government for the National Inquiry which Prime Minister Trudeau promised would start immediately.

    For decades, Indigenous women and supporting organizations called for an inquiry into the disappearances of the many marginalized women from BC.  Unfortunately, the MWCI led by Wally Oppal in 2012 was a deeply and systemically flawed and frustrating process that repeated the same discrimination and exclusion which we hoped it was going to uncover. 

    Of the 56 MWCI recommendations aimed at BC, many are unimplemented or “in progress,” and there is no ongoing accountability from the Province on work that remains to be done.  To the contrary, the Province publicly said in 2014 that they would no longer be providing any updates on the recommendations, and BC Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton advised the Coalition on May 4, 2015, that “no further action is being contemplated.” Minister Anton continues to ignore our requests for full implementation of both MWCI and IACHR recommendations, and for a genuine accountability process to oversee and evaluate change and progress.

    One of the critical and outstanding recommendations from the MWCI, the Highway of Tears Symposium, and the IACHR is to create accessible transportation along the Highway of Tears (Highway 16) in Northern BC.  The Coalition is absolutely appalled that the Privacy Commissioner of BC recently confirmed that the BC Government deleted emails from family and communities about the Highway of Tears instead of responding appropriately to a freedom of information request, and instead of responding to the repeated and important recommendations to address this issue. 

    We request that the Province review Highway of Tears transportation options with affected communities and jointly create a fully funded plan that will be announced prior to the Gathering for Family Members of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls planned for March 2016 in Prince George.  We strongly emphasize the need to address the systemic issues of poverty, racism, and the inter-generational impacts of Residential Schools, leading to the alarmingly high rate of murdered and disappeared women along the Highway of Tears.  We also ask the Province to provide ongoing funding for the Highway of Tears Initiative.

    Importantly, the Coalition is drawing on the respective and collective experience of its member organizations and individuals to recommend that the National Inquiry promised by the newly elected Trudeau government begin by establishing a pre-inquiry consultation process. Such a process should be inclusive of Indigenous women and communities and related organizations, and should establish the mandate and parameters of the inquiry, criteria for appointments of Commissioners and staff, processes for participation, initial areas of research, and resource requirements and commitments.  It will be critical to review different models of inquiries.  Further, the National Inquiry must consult thoroughly at every stage with Indigenous women and communities and related organizations, a recommendation made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its January 2015 report after reviewing the MWCI.

    We are completely resolute that the National Inquiry cannot in any way repeat the mistakes of the BC Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.  Importantly, any recommendations coming out of a National Inquiry must be accompanied by a fully funded implementation plan, which was absent from both the MWCI and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.  We are calling on the Trudeau Government to fulfil its commitment to a National Inquiry by establishing a genuine and transparent pre-inquiry consultation so that the National Inquiry truly results in improving the safety of Indigenous women and girls, and achieves justice for those who have been murdered or disappeared.

    The Coalition on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls initially came together in response to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia overseen by Commissioner Wally Oppal. Unfortunately the groups who formed the Coalition were shut out of the inquiry; however, the Coalition continues to meet regularly to pursue justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and has grown in number and strength.

    Background documents:

    1. Summary of MWCI Recommendations and Implementation, compiled by the Coalition (Nov 5, 2015)
    2. Coalition correspondence to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Wilson-Raybould, Minister Bennett, and Minister Hajdu regarding recommendations for National Inquiry (Nov 9, 2015)

    For further information:

    Amnesty International Canada, Craig Benjamin, (613) 744-7667, ext. 235

    Atira Housing, Janice Abbott, (604) 331-1420

    Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, (604) 808-0507

    BC Assembly of First Nations, Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson, (250) 318-8527

    BC Civil Liberties Association, Josh Paterson, (778) 829-8973

    Butterflies in Spirit, Lorelei Williams, (778) 709-6498

    Carrier Sekani Family Services, Mary Teegee, (250) 612-8710

    Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Tribal Chief Terry Teegee, (250) 640-3256

    Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Alice Kendall, (604) 681-8480

    Ending Violence Association of BC, Christina Entrekin Coad, (604) 633-2506, ext. 13

    February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee, Fay Blaney, (778) 714-0161

    First Nations Summit, Colin Braker, (604) 328-4094

    First United Church, Genesa Greening, (604) 681-8365

    Lookout Emergency Aid Society, Shayne Williams, (604) 255-0340

    Native Women’s Association of Canada

    Neskonlith Indian Band, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, (250) 319-7383

    PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society, Laura Dilley, (604) 872-7651

    PHS Community Services Society, Patrick Smith, (604) 779-6837

    Pivot Legal Society, Kevin Hollett, (778) 848-3420

    Poverty and Human Rights Centre, Shelagh Day, (604) 872-0750

    RainCity Housing, Amelia Ridgway, (604) 662-7023

    Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, (250) 490-5314

    Vancouver Council of Women, Rosemary Mallory, (604) 985-0878

    Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre Society, Lillian Howard, (604) 253-9575

    Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, Keira Smith-Tague, (604) 872-8212

    Union Gospel Mission, Derek Weiss, (604) 253-3323

    West Coast LEAF, Kendra Milne, (604) 684-8772

    WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Mebrat Beyene, (604) 669-9474

    Women Against Violence Against Women, Irene Tsepnopoulous-Elhaimer, (604) 255-6228 ext 229

    Ceejai Julien, family member, (778)251-0727

    Beverley Jacobs, Jacobs Law, (778) 877-7402


    Coalition Backgrounder Documents