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.
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.
The final report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is significant because it will likely inform how future investigations are carried out. Importantly, particularly for those of us interested in ending violence against women and girls, this is a critical opportunity to observe the inner workings of a formal state response to this violence, which in turn, better prepares us for engaging the Canadian state on this issue.
Independent counsel Jason Gratl has prepared a damning report to the B.C. Missing Women's Inquiry that's looking into the years before the arrest of convicted killer Robert William Pickton. Titled "Wouldn't Piss On Them If They Were on Fire: How Discrimination Against Sex Workers, Drug Users and Aboriginal Women Enabled a Serial Killer," it pulls few punches. Indifference. Ineptitude. Discrimination. These words reverberate throughout the document.
Compare the budget for B.C.'s Missing Women's Inquiry (approaching $7 million) and the amounts charged by those working for the commission with what's spent by frontline charities like WISH and PACE that actually work with sex trade workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Senior commission counsel Art Vertlieb billed the province $483,741 for his work on the inquiry. If you put that together with the $482,139 billed by associate counsel Karey Brooks and her law firm you could fund WISH, with its $900,000 budget, for an entire year, and still have enough left over to fund PACE for a season.