10th Annual Memorial for the Missing and Murdered Women of the Downtown Eastside

On this day of the 10th annual memorial for the missing and murdered women, we stand in front of the Vancouver Police Department outraged at the lack of political will that the police have shown towards solving these cases. 

We have heard that the Vancouver Police no longer have a special unit working solely on solving the cases of the women who have disappeared from these streets. These women deserve a full investigation, just as every woman does. As a front-line worker at Vancouver Rape Relief and a Board member of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, I have come to learn that not only are the police responding inadequately to cases of male violence against women, but their lack of effective response often allows for the violence to continue. 

The police's harassing strategies have been part of the problem. In fact, tactics like harassing street addicts by doing "sweeps" forces addicted women into unsafe situations where they are often hidden from the safety of the public eye. The police, by harassing and bullying prostituted women instead of going after the men who participate in the buying and selling of women, reveals that their priorities come at the expense of keeping women safe and free from male violence. How else can they explain the fact that men who are forced to go to the ineffective"John Schools" are given the security of confidential school locations and that the public has no right to know where these schools are located. In the meantime, prostituted women are hauled off the the very public and humiliating legal system. The priorities of maintaining the "Johns" privacy over protecting women is absolutely unacceptable. 

Police must ensure that crimes against people, especially women, take precedence over crimes against property. 

I find it outrageous that in the same week that the Vancouver police put out the $100 000 reward for information about the missing women, they put up the same reward about the home invasions occurring in the suburbs. Unlike the reward money for the missing women, which took a long time for the police to put up and they only did it after enormous public pressure, the garage robber reward came after not even a week of trying to find that man through the usual police means. 

This reveals the police priority. A sexist and racist bias exists within the police department, 31( this number was raised to 50 less than a year later in January 2002) possibly murdered, predominantly poor and aboriginal women have less priority then one robber. I have also learned that this $100 000 reward is no longer available and that the money has gone back into the general revenue of the police department. We demand that this money be used to help solve the cases of the missing women. We also demand a transparent process in which information about the status of the investigation is available to the public.

From the police we want the following, which can be achieved without increasing police powers or funding since Vancouver already has the highest number of police per capita in Canada.

  • Priority of crimes against people, especially against women, instead of property crimes.
  • Efficient, speedy and complete investigation in all cases of violence against women.
  • Reassignment of the police officers full-time to the missing women in the Downtown Eastside
  • Reinstatement of the $100,000 reward
  • Stop harassing street prostitutes and addicted women by forcing them into unsafe, unlit, desolate areas of the city through the "sweeps" and to stop harassing women because they are poor or addicted
  • Public disclosure of the investigation thus far
  • Vancouver municipal police to collaborate with the RCMP in order to investigate effectively

Let's hope our words and actions today force the police to take the lives of women seriously.