Two of Canada‟s leading human rights organizations have joined the growing list of groups who will not participate in the Missing Women Inquiry hearings. Today, Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association announced that they would not be participating in the public hearings scheduled to start next week.
“Commissioner Oppal ruled that participation by the groups who are now being forced out would be useful, and recommended support so they could participate,” said Robert Holmes, Q.C. “Yet the government has chosen to snub his findings and recommendations and reject having a fair hearing; it has lavished all its resources on one side – that of the police and bureaucrats. The government has failed to show it understands that „truth and reconciliation‟ requires respect for and participation by all interested parties.”
“At its very heart this Commission of Inquiry is grappling with critical concerns about access to justice and human rights protection for some of the most marginalized communities in the province,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General for Amnesty International Canada. “But it is going forward in a manner that only adds to that longstanding sense of exclusion and discrimination.”
Amnesty International Canada and the BCCLA were among 21 of 22 participating non-government organizations who asked the Premier to intervene to fix the broken Commission process. No response to the letter was received by the set deadline.
“Many groups have already left this process,” noted Holmes. “Now with the Downtown Eastside Women‟s Centre and the Women‟s Memorial March Committee announcing this week that they can‟t participate, we are going to dedicate our efforts to processes where calls for respect and voices of concern can be heard.”
“We deeply regret not being able to participate, as we are aware that families who have lost sisters, daughters and mothers in the Downtown Eastside continue to struggle for answers and justice,” said Neve. “But we could not allow our continued presence to be seen as supportive of a process that has gone so far off track. We will continue to speak as part of a broader movement of Canadians demanding full respect for the rights of all women. At this point, we have no choice but to do so from outside the Inquiry.”
The BCCLA was joined at the press conference by members of the Downtown Eastside Women‟s Centre and Women‟s Memorial March Committee, and also by representatives of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, including Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
David Eby, Executive Director, (778) 865-7997
Beth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International, (416) 363 9933, extension 332