DTES aboriginal society wants police support for inquiry
Former Attorney General Wally Oppal is seen here talking to the media after being appointed to head the Pickton Inquiry at press conference in Vancouver September, 2010. Oppal submits his final report following the Missing Women Inquiry Thursday Nov. 22, 2012. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
The Vancouver Aboriginal Mother’s Centre Society is calling on the Vancouver Police Department to support a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
President Rosalin Miles says they’re sending a letter to the force this week, adding her organization is “very concerned [an inquiry] hasn’t been initiated by the federal government or the RCMP already.”
But Wally Oppal, former B.C. Attorney General and the commissioner of the Missing Women Inquiry doesn’t think that’s the solution.
“The aboriginal people have been studied to death and we had a comprehensive inquiry following the Pickton investigation,” Oppal said. “We found … there’s one common factor right across Canada and that is the women were poor, drug addicted, with a lack of education, facing homelessness. All of those factors lead to vulnerability and that’s really what we have to deal with. I think we have to start action.”
Oppal points out the recommendations from his 1,400-page report have yet to be implemented.
The inquiry faced criticism from Vancouver Downtown Eastside groups for not including the voices or marginalized women, and Miles agrees. A lot of money was spent on the three-year inquiry, she says, but the issues aboriginal women face across the country weren’t all addressed.
One of those issues she points out is the continued lack of programs on the Downtown Eastside, which she believes is part of the problem.
“There isn’t enough support around homelessness, domestic violence and people who have lost family members,” Miles said, adding it’s not just about finances, but moral support from the larger community.
Advocate groups began calling for an inquiry again after the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was found in a Winnipeg river earlier this month.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected those calls, calling it a crime issue not a sociological phenomenon.
As they gathered for an annual meeting this week, premiers from across Canada suggested a roundtable discussion involving federal ministers in place of an inquiry. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, headed by VPD Chief Jim Chu, isn’t taking a position until speaking with the groups calling for an inquiry.