Saturday, December 6

Montreal massacre remembrance a bitter reminder of how little has changed

Violence against women again in the public consciousness with attacks on Winnipeg teens, Ghomeshi allegations

BY DAPHNE BRAMHAM, VANCOUVER SUN DECEMBER 6, 2014 11:53 AM

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Roberston was among the first to join the YWCA campaign to stop violence against women.

Twenty-five years ago, an armed man walked into Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, separated the students by gender and then started shooting.

Marc Lepine killed 14 women and injured 10 other women and four men before killing himself. His suicide note was a misogynist rant that blamed feminists for ruining his life.

Among the national debates that it sparked was one about violence against women.

It’s a debate that’s never really gone away. But it has recently flared once more with sexual abuse allegations and then charges laid against former CBC star Jian Ghomeshi, allegations of sexual harassment by members of Parliament and continued calls for a national inquiry into the ongoing murders and disappearances of aboriginal women and girls.

If anything, today’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women provides a bitter reminder of how glacially slow and incredibly difficult it is to change attitudes that have been embedded for centuries.

What’s chilling is that these attitudes remain embedded in the very institutions that should have been leading the change — the national broadcaster, Parliament and the RCMP, which has a raft of civil suits against it from female officers alleging sexual assault and harassment by their male colleagues.

These attitudes pervade other institutions as well, including universities and colleges where female students are now the majority in many faculties (although engineering remains an exception).

Yet it was only two years ago during frosh week, first-year students at several universities across the country were encouraged to sing songs about the rape of young girls. Among other things, it prompted the University of British Columbia to institute an “awareness raising” program as if somehow violence against women was something new.

But what can get lost in this remembrance and the discussions prompted by the recent headlines is that these educated women were supposed to have been the least vulnerable to attack.

And while it’s the murders of 14 women that prompted a national day intended to push for action on violence against women, it’s aboriginal women and girls who are at the greatest risk of violence.

More than 1,180 cases of murdered and missing women have been documented over the last 30 years. Some of those women were victims of serial killer Robert Pickton. Some have disappeared along British Columbia’s Highway of Tears.

Two years ago, the B.C. missing women commission inquiry detailed critical police failures regarding the Pickton investigation.

It also pointed out that there are deeper, systemic issues of gender and race inequality and a lack of services that left women so vulnerable.

The violence goes on and none are at greater risk than girls. A 2011 study by UBC researcher Jody Jacob found that 75 per cent of aboriginal girls under 18 have been sexually abused. Statistics Canada data suggests children are as much as five times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than women.

In November, a 16-year-old was beaten so badly under a bridge in Winnipeg that she was left for dead by a man who allegedly went on to sexually assault another woman that same night. Taken to hospital in critical condition, she is now recovering.

In August, the battered body of another Winnipeg teen was pulled from another river.

But it’s not just that the violence continues. It’s that there seems to be so little justice.

The YWCA Canada has illustrated the cycle using data pulled from two different Statistics Canada sources.

The highest estimate is that there are 460,000 sexual assaults every year.

Out of every 1,000, only 33 are reported to police. Of those 33, charges are laid in only 12 cases. Of those 12 cases, only six are prosecuted and only three result in convictions.

How can girls and women have faith in the judicial system?

Of course, there have been positive changes.

A quarter of a century ago, it was rare to see male role models like professional athletes speaking out against violence against women.

Yet for three years, the B.C. Lions football team led by quarterback Travis Lulay has been part of the Be More Than a Bystander campaign, which aims to end violence against women by educating coaches, athletes and schoolchildren.

This week, the YWCA in Vancouver began to reach out to find more male allies with its ISayNoTo campaign, challenging high-profile men in the community to post photos of themselves on social media holding signs that say “I say no to violence against women.”

Among the first to sign on were Mayor Gregor Robertson and Police Chief Jim Chu.

Yet it’s almost certain that the majority who mark today’s anniversary of the Montreal massacre will be women.

Violence against women remains a “women’s issue.” Except that it isn’t and really never has been.

It’s a men’s issue. Because when it comes to violence against women, men are the ones who must stop it.

dbramham@vancouversun.com

Follow me: @DaphneBramham

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© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Friday, December 5

B.C. is much safer for vulnerable women than in the predatory days of Pickton, says attorney general

BY DIRK MEISSNER, THE CANADIAN PRESS DECEMBER 5, 2014

Among the recommendations from Wally Oppal's inquiry into B.C.'s missing women was a shuttle bus along the so-called 'Highway of Tears,' where many women have been murdered or gone missing since the 1970s.

Photograph by: CP files, THE CANADIAN PRESS

VICTORIA — Attorney General Suzanne Anton says British Columbia is a safer place for women compared to when serial killer Robert Pickton was prowling Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

She pointed to a report Thursday that states the Liberal government has taken action on 75 per cent of the recommendations made two years ago after a public inquiry into Pickton’s murders.

“I do believe B.C. is a safer place now than it was 15 years ago when these tragedies were unfolding,” Anton said. “We do have supports for vulnerable women. There’s been very dramatic steps forward.”

Pickton was convicted in 2007 of killing six women and sentenced to life in prison, although he admitted to killing 49 women and the DNA or remains of 33 women were found on his pig farm in Port Coquitlam. Twenty murder charges against Pickton were stayed following his conviction.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Wally Oppal, who headed a public inquiry into the Pickton case, made 63 recommendations in December 2012, including funding a 24-hour centre in the Downtown Eastside for sex workers and starting a transportation service along the so-called Highway of Tears from Prince George to Prince Rupert, where women have gone missing.

Anton said the actions taken by the government since Oppal’s report are protecting vulnerable women. They include legislation that police help find missing people sooner.

She said communication and safety improvements along the Highway of Tears continue to be addressed.

At least 17 women, many of them aboriginal, have vanished or been murdered in the area along Highway 16 and the adjacent Highways 97 and 5 since the 1970s. Most of the cases remain unsolved, though investigators don’t believe a single killer is responsible.

Much of the discussion about the Highway of Tears has focused on a lack of affordable transportation connecting isolated communities, which has led some women to resort to hitchhiking.

In 2006, First Nations leaders released a report recommending a shuttle bus along the highway.

Anton said cellphone service along 160 kilometres of the highway has been expanded and programs to better inform people about transportation options in the area have been improved.

But Opposition New Democrat women’s critic Maurine Karagianis said the Liberals have stalled on providing a dedicated shuttle bus service for the highway, which was one of Oppal’s most urgent recommendations.

“Women are still forced to hitchhike to get to work, to get to the doctor, to get to the social worker, and until that’s resolved the government will have failed,” she said.

Karagianis said Anton’s comments about improvements for women’s services face the grim reality that B.C. is in the midst of one of its deadliest years for domestic violence.

So far, there have been 20 deaths due to domestic violence in B.C., including 18 women, one man and one child — triple last year’s numbers, she said. Another 11 women were seriously injured.

“The reality for women who are fleeing violence is there are very few resources, far too few places to go,” Karagianis said. “We are seeing too many women being forced into homelessness, far too many families that are now homeless. That’s a disgrace in the 21st century.”

Anton said domestic violence is a deep concern of the government, which has often stated it wants a violence-free B.C. where women and children are safe and women have the supports they require.

“It’s top of mind for me,” she said. “It’s a terrible situation when there is domestic violence. It’s terrible for the family. It’s terrible for children. It’s terrible for communities.”

© Copyright (c)

Thursday, December 4

B.C. says action taken on 75 per cent of missing women report recommendations

BY CANADIAN PRESS DECEMBER 4, 2014 4:01 PM

Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George, known as The Highway of Tears, where many women have vanished or been found murdered over a period of more than 40 years. B.C.'s government says it has taken action on 75 per cent of the recommendations made two years ago after a public inquiry into the Robert Pickton serial killings.

Photograph by: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

VICTORIA - B.C.'s government says it has taken action on 75 per cent of the recommendations made two years ago after a public inquiry into the Robert Pickton serial killings.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton says the actions are helping vulnerable women and include expanding cellphone service along the so-called Highway of Tears, a remote stretch of northern highway where women and girls have disappeared.

Anton says the government has also passed legislation that helps police find missing people sooner and some of the children of missing and murdered women have already received $50,000 compensation payments.

Pickton was convicted in 2007 of the second-degree murders of six women and was sentenced to life in prison, although he admitted to killing 49 women and the DNA or remains of 33 were found on his farm.

A commission of inquiry into the Pickton case made 63 recommendations in December 2012, including funding a 24-hour centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside for sex workers and starting a transportation service along the Highway of Tears.

Anton says the government continues to work on improving transportation options along that stretch of highway.