A few weeks ago, World YWCA held the International Women’s Summit with the theme “Women Creating a Safe World.” Here, Canadian Stephen Lewis blasted UN member nations for underfunding UN Women. “It is unconscionable, morally indefensible, ugly, and reprehensible political behavior to create an agency, promise to pledge support, and to strangle it at birth,” said Mr. Lewis.
At home, we are witnessing a similar strangulation of women’s initiatives.
Last week, two prominent aboriginal groups withdrew from the inquiry into the women murdered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They join a growing list of women’s and aboriginal groups who cannot participate in the hearings without government funding for legal representation.
Commissioner Wally Oppal recommended the BC government fund lawyers for several women and aboriginal groups, however the request was denied. This has outraged several groups who question why the BC government was able to fund other inquiries, such as the slaughter of Husky dogs and Vancouver’s hockey riots, but not an investigation into the women who disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Former Vancouver police officer and key witness Kim Rossmo is asking “if the government is already refusing to provide funding, how likely is it that the government will commit funds to implement recommendations that come out of the inquiry?”
The inquiry is important to learn from the terrible events and to prevent it from happening again. As such, it is important that the invited women’s and aboriginal groups participate in this inquiry. YWCA is the largest provider of women’s shelters in Canada, but it doesn’t have to be if we take measures to prevent gender-based violence in the first place. Let’s bring home the theme “Women Creating a Safe World” and make women’s safety a top priority.