VANCOUVER — Four years ago, Elaine Allan told a public inquiry that women were vanishing "without a trace" during the late 1990s and early 2000s when she worked as the co-ordinator of a sex workers' drop-in centre in Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside. "There was just indifference all over the city," said Allan in court transcripts about her aggressive efforts to notify authorities. "It was really a struggle." Fast forward to today and Allan, who is running for the Conservatives in the riding of Vancouver Centre, says she ardently opposes a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. The Tory candidate, who stepped down earlier this year as executive director of a homeless sector non-profit group, responded with a firm no when asked whether she sees a contradiction in her positions. "I don't think we need another study," Allan said during an interview when asked about protesting a formal public inquiry into Canada's missing women. "When it comes to vulnerable women and children we know what the problems are and now is the time to take action." Allan spoke by phone with The Canadian Press on the condition that a Conservative communications person be patched into the call from Ottawa. "We can no longer afford to wait," said Allan, outlining the need for more treatment beds, shelter funding and mental health and addiction programs. A national commission would cost taxpayers $100 million or more and last several years, she added. Wally Oppal, who headed the 2011 missing women commission, echoed Allan's sentiments last year by opposing calls for an inquiry, also insisting that now was the time to act. Allan personally knew five of the six women serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted of murdering and she testified at his trial in 2007. In 2014, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson revealed that nearly 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada over the past three decades. A myriad of organizations — from First Nations groups to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities — have demanded the Conservatives move forward with a nation-wide investigation, despite the government's steadfast refusal. Both the New Democrats and Liberals have promised an inquiry if either wins the Oct. 19 federal election. As for prostitution, Allan toed the Tory line by advocating more police resources and stronger legislation, but she steered clear of specifying her position on whether sex workers themselves should be criminalized. On the topic of Insite, she expressed frustration with Vancouver's safe-injection facility, another lightning-rod topic closely associated with the Downtown Eastside. "When (Insite) was introduced we were told that it would be only one of four pillars needed to effectively address addiction issues in our city, and so far the other pillars — which are prevention, treatment and enforcement — have been under funded, or in some cases ignored altogether," she said. "Harm reduction on its own, which is the other pillar, isn't an effective strategy ... to effectively address high-risk drug use and addiction behaviour." Allan insisted more research is necessary to determine the site's effectiveness, despite a landmark 2011 Supreme Court decision that ruled Insite saved lives and improved health without increasing drug use and crime in the surrounding area. Still, the aspiring Conservative MP broke with standard Tory rhetoric demanding the facility be shut down outright. Asked about her decision to run for the Conservatives, Allan said she wanted to see more accountability and financial transparency in the non-profit sector, citing concern over both inefficiencies and fraud. "I'd like to see better financial controls in place for the agencies that are receiving all this taxpayer money," she said. "We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It's a lot of money." Vancouver Centre is shaping up to be a tight three-way race between the three major parties, mirroring the electoral landscape across the country. Incumbent Liberal MP Hedy Fry is vying for her eighth consecutive term representing the riding, while former Vancouver Park Board Chairwoman Constance Barnes is looking to claim the spot for the New Democrats.
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