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Press Release: Oppal Missing Women Inquiry

October 11, 2010

Vancouver – WESC, a coalition of women’s organizations, is committed to the protection and advancement of women’s liberty, dignity, security and equality. The coalition, which was granted standing, is now calling on Commissioner Oppal not to proceed with the Missing Women Inquiry.

The BC government’s refusal to provide funding for legal counsel to the groups granted standing has sabotaged the Missing Women Inquiry. The Commission has failed to safeguard the integrity and independence of the Inquiry, and has unfortunately acceded to the Government’s wrongful treatment of the groups to whom it granted standing. The Commission, in effect, has agreed to the exclusion of the very groups whose expertise, information, and participation it originally deemed to be crucial to the success of its work.

The appointment of two “independent” counsels by the Commission is a disingenuous attempt to remediate an unfair and discriminatory inquiry. The “independent counsel” cannot serve the particular interest WESC has in ensuring that the Inquiry examines the deeply ingrained sexism in the patterns of violence and in the patterns of police and government non-responsiveness.

WESC rejects the implementation of these legal counsels over whom we have no control, cannot instruct, and yet have been granted the authority to speak for us. As women, and women’s organizations, we must speak for ourselves, choose our own counsel and give instructions, in the same way as the police and Crown.

In addition, WESC’s position is that prostitution is itself a violation of the human rights of women. Women engaged in prostitution should not be criminalized, but criminal sanctions are appropriate for the pimps, johns and prostitution entrepreneurs who use and exploit them. WESC shares this position with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), and others. One of the “independent” counsel appointed favours striking down criminal sanctions on the sex trade, including sanctions on johns, pimps, and brothel owners. His contribution to the Inquiry will be skewed and will neglect a full exploration of our alternative position and comprehensive expertise.

Both the Government and the Commission have failed in this important exercise before it begins.

At this point, the Commission, if it proceeds with this inquiry, is likely to do more harm than good. WESC member groups lobbied for this Inquiry. We still believe that an Inquiry must take place, but given the conditions that the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry is operating under today, it is necessary and honourable for Commissioner Wally Oppal not to proceed with the Missing Women Inquiry.

Media Contact: Hilla Kerner, 604-872-8212

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