What lessons can be drawn from British Columbia’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry? What would be a meaningful process to reconcile, investigate and prevent the violence that still plagues too many Aboriginal women? Those are a couple of the questions an upcoming forum is hoping to tackle.
The forum, Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada: Learning from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, will take place Monday, Dec. 3, from 1 to 2:30pm, at 1003 Ignat Kaneff Building, Osgoode Hall Law School, Keele campus. The event is part of the student-run Osgoode Hall Distinguished Speakers’ Series.
The discussion will focus on missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada within the context of the inquiry – the final report of which was submitted to the Attorney General last week.
The provincial inquiry was tasked with examining how the police conducted their investigation into the disappearances of women from the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver, the role of the Crown prosecution in issuing a stay of proceeding against Robert Pickton in 1998, and determining whether there was systemic racism. The inquiry was then to recommend changes to how investigations should be conducted in the future. Pickton was arrested in 2002 and convicted in 2007 of murdering six women. He was eventually charged with murdering another 20.
Both speakers have direct experience with the issue and the inquiry. Robyn Gervais, independent counsel for Aboriginal interests during the inquiry, resigned citing indifference towards the victims and bias on the part of the commission, as well as a lack of will in investigating the role systemic racism played.
David Eby is the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), which was at the forefront of pushing for the inquiry, before boycotting it when the province refused to fund the participation of indigenous and women’s rights groups.
Many of the missing and murdered women were Aboriginal. Faced with a lack of provincial funding to cover legal fees, many advocacy groups boycotted the inquiry.