The British Columbia government has to act now on compensating serial killer Robert Pickton’s victims and implementing other recommendations put forward a year ago by the inquiry into missing and murdered women, a coalition of advocacy groups says.
After a “totally emotional” meeting on Monday with B.C. Attorney-General Suzanne Anton, Mona Woodward, who spoke for the Missing Women Coalition, said she is tired of the government dragging its feet.
“Why do we always have to fight? Why do we always have to do these protests?” Ms. Woodward said at a media conference. “Why can’t the government fulfill its duty with due care and respect and give aboriginal women and our children the same as the rest of society?”
Wally Oppal, the head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, made 65 recommendations last December to address the systemic gaps that allowed Mr. Pickton to target sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Earlier this month, the province released a report that said only three of the recommendations have been fully implemented, while work has begun on 28 others.
“[The government] appointed Wally Oppal and it’s not following the recommendation and this is totally appalling, it’s an outrage,” said Ms. Woodward, who also represents the Downtown Eastside Sister Watch Program. “These are women in our community and they left behind orphans and children that have to go on without their mother, their grandmother, their auntie.”
Ms. Woodward said the coalition wants specific recommendations carried out, such as compensation for victims’ families and safer transportation along northern B.C.’s Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears, where 18 women have disappeared or been murdered over the past few decades.
The coalition also wants the government to find someone to replace Steven Point, the province’s former lieutenant-governor, who was appointed to oversee the implementation of Mr. Oppal’s recommendations, but resigned in May.
Opposition NDP housing critic Jenny Kwan said the government should act now on compensating the families of Mr. Pickton’s victims.
The former pig farmer was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007. The DNA of 33 women was found on the farm.
The family members of six women whose remains were discovered on the property are suing the Vancouver police, the RCMP and Mr. Pickton.
“If [the government does] accept the facts and evidence as they were presented [at the inquiry], then the government needs to compensate the families now,” Ms. Kwan said. “They shouldn’t have to wait any more. It shouldn’t be before the courts for the community to have to fight yet another round to spend more money in the court system and for lawyers to get action.”
Ms. Anton said after the meeting with the Missing Women Coalition that action is under way on Mr. Oppal’s recommendations.
“I hope the coalition and British Columbians can see that we’re making significant progress, with action under way on one-half of the recommendations directed at us in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report. The province is committed to building a legacy of safety and security for vulnerable women,” she said in a written statement.
“To continue our progress on the recommendations, we’re working with those who have the needed expertise. We’ve begun this engagement process through initial discussions with the Minister’s Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women. We also continue to seek advice from other key stakeholders.”
The province has already provided what Mr. Oppal said was urgently needed: funding for the WISH drop-in centre that provides services for sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, but it has yet to address safety concerns on Highway 16.