The inquiry that was supposed to mend wounds for Aboriginals and women in the Downtown Eastside has only caused more damage, according to advocates.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Frank Paul Society and Amnesty International announced Thursday they are withdrawing from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which begins Tuesday in Vancouver.
Seventeen organizations have now boycotted the inquiry – tasked with looking into the police investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton as women were disappearing from the Downtown Eastside – over the provincial government’s continuing refusal to provide legal aid to all but the lawyer representing the murder victims’ families.
Alex Neve, secretary general for Amnesty International Canada, says the funding decision has effectively made it impossible for DTES organizations to participate in the inquiry originally intended to hear their voice.
“It has become apparent that this inquiry is proceeding in a manner that simply aggravates and deepens the very inequities it purports to address,” said Neve. “It is simply untenable and unprincipled to continue to participate.”
Amnesty International Canada has never pulled out of a public inquiry before but had no choice, Neve said.
With a mountain of documents to review and a minimum of 14 lawyers representing police and government interests, BCCLA policy director Michael Vonn said the inquiry is “fundamentally flawed”.
“You simply cannot do this without a lawyer,” he said. “You look at those numbers and you see the blatant inequality in this process.”
Instead of participating in the inquiry as it begins Tuesday, several of the organizations that were given standing will be protesting outside the courtroom.
Organizations that have pulled out of the Missing Women’s Inquiry:
- DTES Women’s Centre and Committee of the Feb. 14 Women’s Memorial March
- Native Women’s Association of Canada
- Walk4Justice and Frank Paul Society.
- B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International and PIVOT Legal Society
- Ending Violence Association of B.C. and West Coast LEAF
- Women’s Equality and Security Coalition
- Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
- Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of B.C.