PACE Society Withdraws from Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
The Coalition of Sex Worker-Serving Organizations is writing to inform you that we are unable to participate in or support the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. We have deliberated for many months about our participation in the Inquiry for several reasons, not the least of which was our faint hope that the government would fund legal counsel for groups with standing and we would be able to participate meaningfully in the process.
We have come to understand that if we do not withdraw, we will have nothing other than an illusory participant status, which could be viewed as tacit approval for these proceedings. We believe that our Coalition’s participation is essential
for an effective and principled inquiry, but our participation is impossible due to the lack of procedural fairness and funding.
It has been brought to our attention that the Commission is touting the fact that the Coalition has not withdrawn, implying that we are supportive of this flawed process. That is simply not the case. We have stayed on in good faith, believing that the Commission would fight for the participation of groups like WISH, PACE and SWUAV, but that did not happen. If we were to remain a participant in this process, we would be there in name only. We are deeply concerned that the Commission is speaking about us without consulting us, and that this pattern would continue if we remain engaged in the process.
Without the involvement of our Coalition and other women’s groups, this will continue to be a male-dominated process where women are not being supported to participate. We have observed a dismissive attitude on the part of the provincial government and, as a result, women’s groups are being silenced by this process, replicating how women have been treated for years in the justice system and through the unfettered power of government ministries. We see this Inquiry as continuing the very systemic barriers, oppression and bias experienced by sex workers and women who died at the hands of a serial killer that caused this tragedy in the first place.
We question how the various publicly funded participants, such as the police and Crown, are going to overcome their gender, racial and cultural bias and effect change that will truly benefit those voices that have been shut out and not welcome at the table. It is abundantly clear that this Inquiry will be extremely adversarial, that women will not have a strong role in the process and that the organizations which served those women whose fate was cast so long ago will
be excluded. It is our view that this Inquiry and the counsel acting for the VPD, RCMP, Crown Counsel and police union are dehumanizing the people that this Inquiry is supposed to be about by engaging in legal wranglings when matters of
women’s safety are at issue.
We do have faith that no matter how hard counsel for the VPD, RCMP, Crown Counsel and police union try to protect their clients from the truth, the evidence will reveal many injustices. We welcome the creation of a public record of
documents released for the first time, documents that we know will illustrate the systemic disregard for women who were living exceptionally difficult lives and who were devalued and neglected by the very people who are entrusted to
Despite our inability to participate in the Inquiry process, we will continue to work tirelessly with women in the DTES who live and work in conditions of extreme violence and face ongoing barriers in their attempts to access police protection. You can count on our public commentary throughout this process and a consistent reminder that the systemic discrimination and negligence that was present during the 1997 to 2002 period continues to this day and that the women
of this community deserve full access to rights, safety and protection.
Kerry Porth, Executive Director, PACE Society
Kate Gibson, Executive Director, WISH Drop-In Centre Society
Jill Chettiar, Coordinator, Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV)