Why women are angry over the Missing Women's report
Yesterday's release of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report was an emotional event that did little to guarantee justice for victims.
I haven't yet been able to do an in-depth reading of the over 1400-page report produced by Commissioner Wally Oppal after over a year of hearings and deliberations, but I can talk about the problems with the process and about what I saw watching the livestream of Oppal's news conference.
Over the hour, Oppal was interrupted over and over by victims' families and Indigenous women, shouting down his claim that everyone had had their voice heard during the inquiry, and at one point breaking into a "Women's Warrior" song and drumming. It was a powerful moment to see Oppal be silenced, even briefly, by the women who had been silenced during this whole process.
In the spring of this year, several community and advocacy organizations joined in a coalition to boycott the inquiry, calling it a "deeply flawed and illegitimate process" after funding was denied to the 13 groups granted any standing in the inquiry.
The groups spoke out over and over again on other major issues with the Inquiry, including the failure to provide lawyers for community groups when lawyers were provided to protect police and government interests, arbitrary timelines, delayed and incomplete disclosure, unwillingness to give enough time to Aboriginal witnesses, marginalization of vulnerable witnesses and lack of witness protection for them.
These are not all groups that usually see eye-to-eye on every issue, but they could all agree on how fundamentally flawed the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was, and on the need for a national public inquiry into the hundreds of murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women and girls.
In their media release after yesterday's conference, the coalition wrote:
There is a glaring and outstanding need for a full and thorough examination of the systemic factors that underpin the issue of missing and murdered women and girls -- the deep sexism, poverty, racism, and colonialism. There is also a need, that is tragically evident, for the Province to work with the families and community organizations to make real change. The alarming and disproportionately high rate of Aboriginal girls and women that continue to go missing and be murdered must be addressed. We cannot continue to lose our daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, and aunts.
I don't want to totally write off the report and its potential significance. Like I said, it's a long report and it's still being reviewed by community groups and government. We won't know exactly what the recommendations mean, and how likely they are to be put into practice, and to what extent, for a little while.
I can say that among his defenses of the process and seeming bending over backwards to absolve police officers of individual responsibility (by stating he thought their bias must have been unconscious), Oppal said a lot of things that made sense yesterday.
He concluded there was "systemic bias" by police against women during the investigation and said the women "did not receive equal treatment" due to their gender, race, status as sex workers, and often their addiction issues.