BCCLA Calls on Canada to Facilitate UN Investigation

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling on Canada’s provincial and federal governments to support and facilitate a recently announced investigation of Canada by the United Nations. The Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action have announced that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) will be investigating the disappearance and murders of Aboriginal women in Canada.

“All levels of government in Canada have an obligation under international law to facilitate and assist this Committee in their important investigation”, said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “The failure of the BC government to allow meaningful participation of women at risk in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry has attracted international attention. What kind of inquiry into neglect and discrimination gives resources largely to those who did the neglecting and discriminating? What kind of an inquiry into paternalistic attitudes towards women appoints someone to represent them, rather than let them represent themselves? Supporting this United Nations investigation is Canada’s chance to correct an ongoing wrong and an international embarrassment.”

The BCCLA, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and more than twenty other organizations walked away from B.C.’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry just three months ago. The main reasons for pulling out were the gross disparity between the resources provided to marginalized women compared to those bestowed upon police and government agencies and the Commission’s limited terms of reference. BC is providing two publicly funded lawyers to represent thousands of marginalized women across B.C. and Canada and 20 non-government organizations. In contrast, government is funding one Vancouver police officer alone with two lawyers, 14 more government funded lawyers represent police and government interests generally, and the Commission itself has nine lawyers, plus additional staff.

Holmes added, “The U.N.’s decision to show up now and investigate Canada is an indictment of the BC government’s decision to refuse to follow Commissioner Oppal’s recommendation that these marginalized women be supported to participate in this Inquiry. Clearly the U.N. does not agree with the government that this Inquiry can usefully proceed without the women who the Inquiry is intended to benefit.”

A BCCLA letter was included in a package of materials assembled by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and sent EDAW in October asking CEDAW to intervene in the matter of the disappearance and murder of marginalized women and girls generally in Canada. The BCCLA looks forward to fully cooperating and participating in the CEDAW investigation in  partnership with women’s groups across Canada to demand equal rights to protection by police for marginalized women in this country.

Robert Holmes, Q.C., President, (604) 838-6856
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, (604) 630-9753