VANCOUVER –The Liberal government’s recent decision to deny funding to support legal representation for advocacy groups in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry will jeopardize the commission’s capacity to fulfill its mandate, say the New Democrats.
New Democrat MLAs Jenny Kwan and Leonard Krog sent a letter to Attorney General Barry Penner today, responding to his July 22 decision that Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal did not have the authority to recommend funding for 13 groups granted standing in the inquiry and the government was not required to accept his recommendation.
In the letter, Kwan and Krog renewed their call to government to provide counsel to the 13 groups specifically requested by Mr. Oppal stating, “This inquiry has the potential to be one of the most important inquiries in the history of our province. So many lives have been lost, so many questions have gone unanswered and so many lives are still at risk.”
“One of the main goals of the inquiry is to learn from the circumstances surrounding the women who vanished from the downtown eastside andto prevent it from happening again,” said Kwan, the MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “The Liberals are jeopardizing the integrity of the inquiry by denying the meaningful participation of the people who knew the murdered and missing women.”
Krog, the opposition critic for the attorney general, says the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association, which provided counselling and referral services to some of the women who went missing and were later murdered, has since withdrawn its participation.
“These workers are on the front lines and have first-hand knowledge of how things can be improved for aboriginal women at-risk; however, without counsel, they’re unable to provide a submission to the inquiry,” said Krog.
Scott Fraser, the New Democrat critic for aboriginal relations, said the premier missed her opportunity last week to show leadership on the issue when native leaders called for an end to violence against aboriginal women and girls as one of their top priorities.
“When confronted at the annual Council of the Federation on her government’s refusal to fund aboriginal group participation in the inquiry, Premier Clark argued that funding shouldn’t be spent on examining the past,” said Fraser.
“Apparently, the Premier doesn’t see the value in providing counsel to the groups that had direct contact with missing and murdered aboriginal women of the downtown eastside, which has only angered aboriginal groups,” said Fraser. “The best way that our communities can move forward and provide justice and honour to those affected, is to ensure that their perspectives are heard.”
The New Democrats are on record in support of funding the 13 groups, as recommended by Commissioner Wally Oppal, in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
Letter to the Attorney General attached.