600 REASONS

The “Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry” Public Forums

First off, if you are sitting on the sidelines, a bystander ~ then ask yourself “are you part of the problem, or are you part of the solution.” The time to act is NOW.

600 FACES. 600 NAMES. 600 LIVES LOST.

Empowerment of women has been one of the strongest drivers of social evolution over the past century, and many argue that it is the most efficient strategy for addressing the global challenges of our time.

This year’s theme in Canada for International Women’s Day is Strong Women, Strong Canada: Women in Rural, Remote and Northern Communities: Key to Canada’s Economic Prosperity.” Citied by the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women. She goes on to say;

“The Canadian economy benefits as a whole when all women from each region of the country are economically secure.” “That is why, on this important day, we recognize the critical role that women continue to play in our nation’s prosperity.  Canada recognizes that women’s economic empowerment is essential to our country’s prosperity.”

While I agree with Hon. Rona Ambrose whole heartedly, that economic empowerment is of importance, I also feel that we must acknowledge that there is a greater need at the foundational level, and that is – gender equality and attention to violence against women and vulnerable popluations, both urban and rural.

The global facts are staggering:

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and gender based violence.  According to the UN “Women at a Glance’ report, women account for over 40% of the world’s workforce, earn less than 25% of the wages, and represent about 70% of people living in poverty. In many countries around the world women are not allowed to own land, yet women produce and farm over 55% in rural developing countries. In this century alone only 28 women have been elected heads of state or government and  of the 185 highest ranking UN diplomats, only 7 are women. Over half the population of women, globally, do not have basic human rights and women on the other end of the spectrum in corporate sectors in C-level leadership positions – women top out at 16% globally.  A 10:1 ratio for men to women and these numbers have not moved since 2002.

A global perspective on violence:

Violence against women is the largest war today, and it is only within the last decade that rape has been classified as a weapon of war.  On the global scale, female vulnerability increases during conflict, when sexual violence is often used as a weapon, and it is only within our decade where rape has been sanctioned as a “weapon of war.” In conflict states, recovery from conflict and disaster should be used as opportunities to rectify inequalities. Nevertheless, women make up only 8% of peace negotiators, and only 25 countries have developed National Action Plans supporting UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women’s protection in conflict and participation in peace processesm luckly Canada (as one of the G8 countries) plays a role in this mandate.

1 out of 3 women will become the victim of sexually based violence and in our community the women exploited most often are those who are disenfranchised.

The UN estimates that from 113 million to 200 million women around the world are demographically “missing.” Every year, from 1.5 million to 3 million women and girls lose their lives as a result of gender-based violence or neglect.

I feel as if the next line I should write should be; “thankfully we live in a civilized city, where this isn’t an issue!”

Right?

…. Wrong!

I can say first hand, as a survivor of gender based sexual violence and losing loved ones to the psychological trauma that violence has on another – it is an issue, and one of great magnitude. After spending a few months living on the DTES (might I add – not just for research, but because financially I  have been labelled as “poor,”) living on a low income budget and in low cost housing.

No matter what your designation may be, no person should feel marginalized, less of a person or feel (dis)empowered or (dis)enfranchised – not in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The time for change is now, and if you are lucky – you might just play a hand in tipping the scales – but first, you need to use your voice and second you need to show up and be part of the solution making process.

How does Canada Compare:

In Canada there was a reported 64,500 admissions to shelters in 2010 by women across our nation, of which 67% were women fleeing abusive and severe violence against their partners. The establishment of shelters as a refuge for women fleeing abusive situations dates back to the 1970s. Since then, the number of shelters has increased considerably, rising from fewer than 20 in 1975 to over 500 by 2004, and even more leading into 2011.

However, homelessness and fear are still a major concern, as outlined in the keynote speech “The Innovative Approaches to Protecting Vulnerable and Marginalized Women” keynote presentation by Doreen Binder. Many comments by the audience reflected that there are many systematic gaps in resources, professional services, policy and our justice system.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada has citied more than 600 aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered since 1990 (could be more); their dedication, along with many other related organizations has pressed the right buttons – those of the UN High Commission on Human Rights.

The Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry:

On September 27, 2010, in recognition of the tragedy of missing and murdered women in BC the Lieutenant Governor in Council issued an Order establishing the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (the “Commission”). Over the course of the next month the Commission’s core staff of six were recruited, along with volunteers and advocacy related connections to address the problems and the issues concerning delays in reporting, lack of resources,  and barriers across jurisdictions, during the  “missing women investigations” conducted between January 23, 1997 and February 5, 2002, by police forces in British Columbia respecting women reported missing from the Downtown Eastside of the city of Vancouver (the “DTES”).

In late 2011, the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights signaled to the world thatCanadawas up for review. The UN inquiry procedure is being handled by the committee on the elimination of discrimination of women (CEDAW).

This week the Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry commences a series of six important Public Policy Forums held over the course of the next two weeks. These forums are a component of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Study Commission. Held in downtown Vancouver from May 1 toMay 10, 2012, they will focus on how to improve the safety and security of vulnerable women.

The Art of Conversation:

My goal in attending many of these forums is to look at the scope of policing and policy and to showcase the key note commentary, questions and topics from the audience and our community, in hopes to gain a deeper understanding of the multi segmental approach to improving access and safety to our community’s vulnerable women.

In my optimistic way, I also hope to outline some of the positive approaches that are being implemented by the organizations connected to the missing women’s investigation, some of which are performed and implemented by the Vancouver Police Department, RCMP and Municipal Policing Specialized Teams.

This will directly relate to the more global issue of the “worlds women” that will be addressed at the “Women Empowered” Movie & Salon Night on May 18th, and is one of the sole reasons why I continue to strive to bring awareness to policy, activism and standing (or in my case running) for your convictions. The last leg of my 101km route is dedicated to women of the DTES, honoring the past and the present and paying tribute to their strength and courage.

Upcoming policy forums are:

Policy Forum 1: Ensuring the Safety of Vulnerable Women, Session A: Preventing Violence Against Sex Trade Workers
Date: Tuesday, May 1
Time: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room

Policy Forum 1: Ensuring the Safety of Vulnerable Women, Session B: Preventing Violence Against Aboriginal and Rural Women
Date: Tuesday, May 1
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room

Policy Forum 1: Ensuring the Safety of Vulnerable Women, Session C: Building Strong Police-Community Relationships
Date: Thursday, May 3
Time: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room

Policy Forum 2: Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses in the Criminal Justice Process
Date: Thursday, May 3
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: Vancouver Public Library, Peter Kaye Room

Policy Forum 3: Improving Missing Person Practices, Session A: Accepting and Investigating Missing Person Reports
Date: Monday, May 7
Time: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420

Policy Forum 3: Improving Missing Person Practices, Session B: Police Relationships with Victims’ Families, the Community, the Public and the Media
Date: Monday, May 7
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420

Policy Forum 4: Inter-jurisdictional Collaboration and Coordination Among Police
Date: Tuesday, May 8
Time: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420

Policy Forum 5: Enhancing Police Accountability
Date: Tuesday, May 8
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Room 420

Policy Forum 6: From Report to Substantive Change – Healing, Reconciliation and Implementation
Date: Thursday, May 10
Time: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Location: Wosk Centre For Dialogue, Room 320

Your voice and your input is crucial in helping to save the lives of vulnerable women who are still at risk today. Please show your support and join me from May 1 to May 10th. Follow my twitter feeds and facebook posts for on going commentary and live documentation of the public forums.

Sources:

  • Prepared by Steve Sweeney, October 2011. [“Sweeney Report”].  Available at      www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/reports-and-publications/
  • Women Go “Missing” by the Millions, New York Times article, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/24/opinion/24iht-edali.html
  • Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), Voices of Our Sisters in Spirit: A Report to Families and Communities (2nd Edition March 2009); NWAC, What Their Stories Tell Us – Research Findings from the Sisters in Spirit Initiative (2010);      Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Interim Report: Call Into the Night – An Overview of Violence Against Aboriginal Women (March 2011);
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About RUN4ACAUSE

I am what you would call a freelance do’gooder of all things bucketlist and philanthropically inclined. (a) Movement & Performance Coach (a) Social Crusader (a) Wannabe Superhero (a) Athlete (a) Advocate for Play (a) Compassion Junkie (a) Womens and Youth Activist (a) runner'of a' muck (a) Chief Fascia Facilitator (Yoga Teacher and MyoFascia Enthusiast) So, here it is, my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) TO RAISE $1 MILLION DOLLARS before the age of 35! This is no small 'feet' to take on... A 10 year passion project; by which I harness the power behind the sports philanthropy movement by using my own middle of the pack talent - RUNNING! I am the founder of RUN4ACAUSE, and my goal is simple ~ to combine advocacy with sport and the foundation is to bring awareness to the power behind education, the power of our youth and women's economic empowerment worldwide! This blog is an ongoing Story Telling Series of my RUN4ACAUSE, where I aim to showcase the direct impact WE can make by empowering our youth to transform their world; by mobilizing them to engage in cultural exchange, gain a global perspective, and create and lead social change through the art of sport, and by the power of one voice. Imagine the possibilities! I hope this blog leaves you empowered, inspired and MOVED - so why don't you join me and RUN4ACAUSE!
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