Action Needed on Missing Women

OTTAWA – With this week’s news that 8 more names been added to the list of women missing from the Downtown Eastside, I want to express my deep sympathy for the families and loved ones of those who continue to look for answers in this horrific case.

The tragedy of the 69 missing women case is felt by many. The community in the Downtown Eastside continues to be marked by a sense of loss and grief. For too many years there was little action taken on the increasing number of unsolved murders and frustration mounted. Countless others from across the country have written me in deep distress over the situation. They want to see an end to the continued violence, often targeted at sex trade workers.

It is with great sorrow that again we must call on all three levels of government to act. Families and loved ones need answers and women still face dangerous and precarious situations

I am calling on the Federal Minister of Justice, Hon. Irwin Cotler, who has publicly stated that he sees the need for legal reform in this area, to encourage his colleagues to re-strike the Sub-Committee on Solicitation Laws. This Committee needs to start meeting and set a course of work which I hope will also include a travel budget to allow Members of Parliament to hear from sex-trade workers and the wider community. If he chooses instead to put forward draft legislation with amendments to the Criminal Code I encourage him do so without delay. This issue can no longer be put on the back-burner or avoided.

Further to my letter of September 22nd, I again implore Minister Cotler to take urgent action and work with law enforcement agencies to place a moratorium on enforcement of the communicating laws under the Criminal Code. The current criminalization of sex trade workers under these sections of the Code discourages or prevents women from contacting the police when their safety is in jeopardy.

As well, I continue to call on the Mayor, as Chair of the Vancouver Police Board, to conduct an inquiry into police investigation of the missing women case to determine what happened.

Violence against women, particularly of Aboriginal women, has been highlighted this week by Amnesty International in a report titled Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada. I support the recommendations in this report urge action to address the ongoing social and economic marginalization of indigenous women and to ensure the police and justice systems adequately protect these women.

The tragedy of the 69 missing women raises many questions about how our society can continue to expose these women to violence, exploitation and death and why so little is done to protect them. The time for action is now.