Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Holds Hearing on Disappearances and Murders of Aboriginal Women and Girls in BC

Native Women’s Association of Canada

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) will appear today before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington D.C. to provide a thematic briefing on the subject of the disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women and girls in British Columbia.

Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, President of NWAC, said “The focus of this first briefing with the Inter-American Commission is on British Columbia for two reasons:

First, because more than one quarter of the disappearances and murders that NWAC has documented for the whole country occurred in British Columbia. It is also well known that there has been a concentration of killings in several locations in the province, in the Downtown Eastside and along the Highway of Tears.

Secondly, it is in British Columbia that the first and only inquiry into police and criminal justice failures with respect to disappearances and murders of women has been appointed. NWAC and other Aboriginal organizations have learned a sad lesson from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, one that reveals British Columbia’s unwillingness to respect the rights of Aboriginal women to participate fully and equally in judicial processes that address their interests and rights.

NWAC hoped that the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry would provide an opportunity to shed light on the systemic failures of the police and criminal justice system to deal with the racialized and sexualized violence that Aboriginal women and girls experience and become a model for other jurisdictions. For that reason, NWAC applied for, and was granted, full standing at the Inquiry.

Unfortunately, however, both the Government of British Columbia and the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry further violated the rights of Aboriginal women and girls, by refusing NWAC funding for its legal counsel, and by appointing “independent counsel” to speak for Aboriginal women, without our consent. The recently announced decision of that lawyer to withdraw, and her reasons for doing so, confirmed NWAC’s worst fear that this Inquiry will not provide answers to the ongoing discrimination against Aboriginal women that threatens their safety and lives.

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is a failure for Aboriginal women, with 25 publicly-funded lawyers now representing police agencies, no publicly funded counsel representing any of the groups that were granted standing, and no participation of any Aboriginal groups in the Inquiry.

We will inform the Inter-American Commission both of the nature and extent of the violence against Aboriginal women and girls in British Columbia and Canada, and also of the profound failure of supposedly corrective steps, like the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.”