Experts Call Decision Not To Fund Counsel for Missing Women Inquiry Shocking and Unprecedented
A dozen experts on inquiries in Canada and on human rights sent a letter yesterday to the Attorney General of British Columbia, Shirley Bond expressing their "shock and concern" about the government's decision not provide funding for legal counsel to the groups granted standing at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. In their joint letter, the authors state:
"We can identify no other case in Canada where a government, having appointed a Commission of Inquiry, then, in effect, overturned a Commissioner’s decision on standing by refusing funding for participation. It is illogical, and it damages irreparably the ability of the Commissioner to do the very work that was assigned to him.... Unfortunately... the Commission now cannot proceed fairly or credibly."
The authors state that the appointment by the Commission of "independent" counsel to represent Aboriginal women and women from the Downtown Eastside does not remedy the preferential treatment being given to the police and Crown, who have publicly funded legal counsel. Instead it introduces a new form of discrimination.
The letter concludes that: "The refusal of funding in this case is also especially egregious because the groups granted standing represent some of the most disadvantaged women in Canada, including Aboriginal women, women living in poverty, women with drug addictions, and women engaged in prostitution. These are women whose voices are rarely heard in legal fora. They are women who are regularly, and in the facts at issue in the Inquiry, repeatedly,preyed upon, violated and murdered. To render them voiceless when it is their lives and safety which are the subject of the Inquiry, is unprincipled, as well as legally unsound."
The authors of the letter include prominent Canadians who have been Lead Commission Counsel, Commission Counsel, Counsel for parties, Research Director or Research Advisor at the following inquiries: the Goudge Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology, the Inquiry into the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, the Maher Arar Inquiry, the Ipperwash Inquiry into the killing of Dudley George, the Walkerton Inquiry, the Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, the Inquiry into Allegations of Conflict of Interest Concerning the Honourable Sinclair M. Stevens, and the Inquiry concerning the Kingston Prison for Women. Authors also include experts on constitutional law in Canada, equality rights and anti-discrimination law.
Amnesty International Canada
416-363-9933, ext. 332