As my wife and I were driving home in Duncan, B.C. three years ago, we noticed a young girl hitchhiking. She was young, First Nations, and not dressed for the weather. As we stopped to pick her up, we noticed a white truck stop on the other side of the road, and two guys got out and walked towards her. We cut them off, and told her to hop in. This was just weeks after a gruesome murder. Fast-forward to last night. On our way home we noticed another young girl hitchhiking. Until people all over Canada demand better from our leaders, nothing will change, and Aboriginal girls will continue to go missing in record numbers, numbers that already concern the U.N.
At the beginning of last week we rejoiced with our colleagues upon hearing that Canadian premiers called for an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. And then in less than 24-hours the Feds dismissed the premier's urgent call to action. Full stop. If hundreds of white women were murdered and missing would an inquiry be so quickly dismissed? What about hundreds of kindergarten teachers? Or hundreds of fire fighters? The premiers have it right. The time is now.
Waiting for the Canadian state to do something about violence is literally killing us, so I am not interested in participating in any delaying tactics or knowledge gathering for a state that clearly isn't listening. I want meaningful change and I want it now, and I don't think that's too much to ask for. Because my life and the lives of all women and girls are worth more than this.
Yes, the prejudices faced by Vancouver's missing women were systemic and institutional, but systems and institutions are made up of individuals, and ultimately some of them should be found responsible. Repeatedly, Commissioner Wally Oppal fails to do so. The judge has failed to judge. Imagine if during his time on the bench he'd been willing to hear such damning evidence, and then at the end of the trial declared that no sentence should be passed because, after all, in the end it's society's fault.
Monday morning marked the long-awaited release of Wally T. Oppal's Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report. To say commissioning this report was a bit controversial is like saying Pickton himself was a bit murdery. Oppal's investigation basically entailed a jaunty stroll across a packed minefield of modern Canada's touchiest subjects including racism, sexism, classism, aboriginal politics, the sex trade, mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, bureaucratic cruelty and police incompetence, all headed by a party hack from an embattled provincial government that might very well poll worse than all the others put together.
As Commissioner Wally Oppal and the media tried to talk about Vancouver's Missing Women, the forsaken women, the marginalized women, these women demanded space to talk for themselves. They demanded to be heard — just as the marginalized women in the Downtown Eastside have long done. It remains to be seen, however, if anyone is listening.