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NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
2012JAG0324-002043

Dec. 17, 2012

Ministry of Justice

 

 

Government takes immediate action on missing women report

 

VANCOUVER – The B.C. government today announced immediate steps toward addressing extensive recommendations made in the final report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (MWCI).

 

Before outlining government’s response to the report by commissioner Wally Oppal, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond said her first thoughts are for the families and friends of victims and how tragic it has been for them to lose a loved one during this horrific chapter in B.C.’s history.

 

“I want to assure you, as well as all British Columbians, that our government will use these recommendations as a blueprint for building a legacy of safety and security for vulnerable women over the coming years,” said Bond.

 

A key recommendation of commissioner Oppal’s report is to appoint a “champion” to provide advice to government as it implements the recommendations. Oppal asked government do this within 12 weeks but government sees the critical importance of this recommendation and is implementing it immediately.

 

In response to the recommendation, the Honourable Steven Point, former Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, has been selected to be this champion and will chair a new advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women. This committee will provide community-based guidance on the report’s 63 recommendations and two additional proposals.

 

Also in response to recommendations, the Minister Responsible for Housing will commit $750,000 to the WISH Drop-In Centre Society to allow it to expand the services it provides to vulnerable women. The society’s mission is to improve the health, safety and well-being of women who work in the survival sex trade.

 

This will enhance other existing services for women in the Downtown Eastside that include the recently opened 26-bed, women-only emergency shelter; increased funding for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre to expand hours; spaces specifically for women and women with children who are at risk of violence; and priority placement for women fleeing violence to help them establish community, health and educational supports.


 

In addition, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is developing a targeted consultation plan to address the commissioner’s recommendation for safer transportation opportunities along the Highway 16 corridor. Ministry staff will meet with communities along the corridor in the new year, to build upon past studies into transit options in the region and identify options that meet their needs.

 

“Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry” outlines critical and systemic failures during the five-year investigation into missing and murdered women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2002.

 

Over the next few months, government will thoroughly review the 1,448-page report and welcome input – via the advisory committee – from groups directly impacted by the recommendations including families of the missing and murdered women, the Vancouver Police Department, the RCMP and the City of Vancouver, all of whom just received the report today.

 

 

Quotes:

 

Shirley Bond, Minister of Justice and Attorney General –

 

“We need to move forward together if we hope to create a legacy of safety and security for vulnerable women. We know these changes won’t be easy and they won’t happen overnight. Government cannot make them alone but we can and will be a leader for them. I want to thank commissioner Wally Oppal and his team for the work they have done to contribute to this important issue.”

 

“I can think of no other person better suited to support this work than Steven Point. I’m grateful he has agreed to be a champion for this work as we take action on addressing the systemic challenges identified in this report.”

 

Wally Oppal, QC, commissioner of Missing Women Commission of Inquiry –

 

“I am optimistic about government's response to the recommendations and by its immediate move to action. It is important that we all find a way to work together in order to move forward.”

 

“It is crucial that everyone that has been touched by the tragedy of the missing and murdered women, and that everyone that was involved in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, set aside their differences and find common ground to implement the recommendations. It is time to honour the memories and legacy of the missing and murdered women and to help keep our most vulnerable citizens safe.”

 

“I believe I have provided a road map for change. It is my heartfelt hope that the people of British Columbia will drive this change by supporting these recommendations and ensuring that they are implemented.”

Quick Facts:

 

Government’s immediate initial response:

 

·         The Honourable Steven Point will act as the champion and will chair an advisory committee to guide government’s response to the recommendation.

·         The Minister Responsible for Housing will commit $750,000 to the WISH Drop-In Centre to allow them to expand the hours in which they provide services to women.

·         The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is developing a targeted consultation plan to address the commissioner’s recommendation for safer transportation opportunities along the Highway 16 corridor.

·         The Ministry of Justice’s criminal justice branch is reviewing policy changes related to equality and vulnerable witnesses and will continue to take action to strengthen prosecution practices.

 

MWCI Background:

 

·         The independent MWCI was established in 2010 to examine the police investigations conducted between January 1997 and February 2002 into women reported missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

·         The commission considered evidence from 93 days of public hearings, written submissions, public policy forums, and input from community engagement forums throughout the province.

·         Its recommendations fall into five major themes:

o   Healing and reconciliation, and legacy.

o   Policing reforms.

o   Crown policy and practices.

o   Missing persons’ response and community engagement.

o   Services and supports.

·         To date, government has spent approximately $10 million on the MWCI. 

 

 

Learn More:

 

·         Missing Women Commission of Inquiry website: www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/

·         Read about upcoming changes to the justice system in White Paper Part One: A Modern, Transparent Justice System: http://www.justicebc.ca/shared/pdfs/WhitePaperOne.pdf 

 

One backgrounder follows.

 

Contacts:

 

James Beresford
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
250 387-8119
Ruth Atherley
Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
604 787-7379

 

 

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect


 

BACKGROUNDER

For Immediate Release
2012JAG0324-002043

Dec. 17, 2012

Ministry of Justice

 

 

 

 

Biography for the Honourable Steven Point

 

The Honourable Steven Point served as British Columbia’s 28th Lieutenant Governor. He was sworn-in as Lieutenant Governor, the Queen's vice-regal representative in B.C., on Oct. 1, 2007, and completed his term in office on Nov. 1, 2012.

 

Prior to his work as Lieutenant Governor, Point was appointed Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission in 2005. This role built on his 15 years of experience as elected Chief of the Skowkale First Nation. Point also served as the tribal chair of the Stó:lo Nation government, and was honoured as Grand Chief by the Chiefs of the Stó:lo Tribal Council.

 

Point was the recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 2000. Also in the year 2000, he received an honorary doctorate of law degree from the University of the Fraser Valley, where he served as a professor. This year he also received an honorary doctorate of law degree from the University of Victoria.

 

Point was appointed a B.C. provincial court judge in 1999, based primarily out of Abbotsford. For a number of years prior, he practised criminal and Aboriginal law as a partner in his firm Point and Shirley, and also spent some time working for Citizen and Immigration Canada as an immigration adjudicator.

 

From 1991 to 1994, Point was director of the native law program at UBC.

 

Point received his law degree from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1985 and was called to the B.C. bar in 1986.

 

 

Contacts:

 

James Beresford
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
250 387-8119

 

Ruth Atherley
Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
604 787-7379

 

 

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect