Case Summary

In November 2010, West Coast LEAF submitted its formal application to be a part of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate the disappearance and murder of dozens of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and along the Highway of Tears in Northern BC. West Coast LEAF committed to working in coalition with the BC Ending Violence Association (EVA). Hearings to determine standing took place on January 31 and February 1, 2011.

 

Documents

 

West Coast LEAF’s involvement

In May 2011, Commissioner Wally Oppal granted West Coast LEAF and EVA  “limited participant” status in the Inquiry, entitling the groups to access documents and apply to cross-examine witnesses. Commissioner Oppal also recommended that all community groups, including West Coast LEAF and EVA, be given funding to participate in the Inquiry. However, the government decided to deny funding to all of the participants other than the police, the criminal justice branch and a limited number of affected families, making it difficult if not impossible for community groups to participate.

There was a pre-hearing conference held on June 2011 for groups to express their need for funding once more to the Commissioner. West Coast LEAF also signed a joint letter, along with other groups, to Premier Christy Clark regarding funding.

In July 2011, Deputy Attorney General David Loukidelis confirmed the government’s decision not to fund any of the 13 groups.

 

Withdrawal from the process

The Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) and West Coast LEAF (the Coalition) withdrew from the Missing Women Inquiry, citing the government’s failure to provide funding for counsel for community groups (see press release and full letter).

West Coast LEAF’s participation was integral to this inquiry as it would have asked questions and made arguments in order to bring before the Commission a substantive equality analysis of the issues concerning the missing women investigations.

From the application for standing:

“West Coast LEAF submits that the Commission must examine the reasons for the failure to properly investigate these cases, and in particular to carry out an analysis of whether there is a racialized pattern to the disappearances and the failed investigations.  The Commission must interrogate why the justice system neglected this file involving so many poor, Aboriginal, drug addicted, sex working women and men, as opposed to a file involving victims and witnesses without these intersecting layers of vulnerability.”

From the letter announcing withdrawal:

“We are extremely concerned that the government’s failure to commit the necessary resources to this Commission is an indication that the government is failing to take women’s safety seriously, particularly the safety of Aboriginal women, sex workers and women living in poverty.  The failure to provide adequate resources at this early stage does not bode well for the government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Commission in your final report.  While we appreciate your efforts to persuade the government to decide otherwise, the denial of funding and the silencing of community voices undermines the credibility of the work of the Commission.  The truth cannot be obtained without the participation of those who were closest to the victims and their communities, and we cannot move forward without uncovering the truth of what happened in the past.”

West Coast LEAF worked with Pivot Legal Society and BC Civil Liberties Association to produce a critique of the Missing Women Inquiry process entitled “Blueprint for an Inquiry: Learning from the Failures of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry”.

A coalition of community groups also decided not to participate in the study portion of the commission, which is distinct from the hearing portion of the inquiry. This letter is here.

 

Further Developments

West Coast LEAF worked with Pivot Legal Society and BC Civil Liberties Association to produce a critique of the Missing Women Inquiry process entitled “Blueprint for an Inquiry: Learning from the Failures of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry”.

In September 2013, the website hosting all of the Inquiry’s primary source materials including transcripts of proceedings, submissions to the Commission, and the Commissioner’s rulings, mysteriously disappeared. West Coast LEAF joined the BC Civil Liberties Association in calling on government to reinstate the website on the basis that access to that information was in the public interest. This letter is here.

The website was reinstated on October 25, and can be found here: http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/.