Amnesty International and Native groups release scathing open letter about Pickton inquiry
“It was so important for the inquiry to have an Aboriginal voice – more than 60 women from the Downtown Eastside went missing, many were found murdered on the Pickton farm. Our position to not participate in the inquiry (was) a coerced decision. This inquiry is disgusting, and it's getting more and more sick as it progresses. We don't see how anything meaningful can come from this inquiry because it is tainted and sick. I'm ashamed of Canada and of our provincial and federal leadership for allowing this to happen . . . in this way.”
Wally Oppal, BC's former Attorney General and inquiry commissioner, told the hearings last week that boycotting groups should reconsider.
"We are here to investigate the tragic loss of life, to understand how and why a serial killer was able to prey on our most vulnerable women for an extended period of time without being caught," he said. "The aboriginal community is among the most vocal of our critics. . . They are not wrong.
"Every day, I come to this courtroom with the hope that the groups that have withdrawn will return. . . Each group that has withdrawn has an important role here — and by choosing not to participate, you are silencing your own voice in this process. Your voices are the heart and soul of our communities."
Mona Woodward, from Vancouver's Aboriginal Front Door, responded to a Vancouver Observer question about a potential UN inquiry, saying that violence against women and girls – especially sex workers and Indigenous people – continue at crisis levels in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. With the perceived failure of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, she added, the last hope remains a federal investigation – or even a global one.
“Just because the inquiry's going to be over, doesn't mean it'll end violence against women and girls,” Woodward said. “I know, from a legal standpoint, (we) intend to take it outside Canada.
“Canada doesn't recognize rights of Aboriginal as a whole. It's horrible – this is Canada.”
Yellowquill echoed concerns in the groups' open letter that the inquiry – which has heard that police ignored pleas for help, missing women reports, and key witnesses years before serial killer Robert Pickton was arrested – is merely oppressing Indigenous people further.
“It's replicating the harms done to Aboriginal people in this country,” she said. “This inquiry in unbalanced. For us, in our worldview, that is a root cause of sickness.
“We won't participate in this sickness. We're seeking other ways to get justice.”
The highest level of Aboriginal leadership in the country added their own words to the public statement, claiming that the inquiry's failings stem from it being “high-jacked by interested government parties to prevent truths from airing that might bring them into disrepute,” according to National Chief Shawn A-in-Chut Atleo and BC regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“No measure of justice has been achieved,” they wrote. “We had hoped that important lessons could have been learned which may have served to prevent similar harm and tragedy from occurring in the future.
“It is deplorable in a country such as Canada that identifiable groups of society can be singled out for differential treatment within the justice system. The families of missing and murdered women deserve much more – they deserve the truth and they deserve peace of mind. Moreover, the broader society must be re-assured that our institutions will protect the most vulnerable and all members of society.”
Atleo and Wilson-Raybould called on the Canadian government to “facilitate” the independent investigation on missing Native women, which was announced last year by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women.
Without Canadian cooperation, the UN cannot proceed with its proposed inquiry.