Jan 19 VANCOUVER, Coast Salish Territories – The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre will be making submissions and giving input to Wally Oppal and the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry today at the Japanese Language Hall.

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, established in 1978, exists to support and empower women and children living in extreme poverty in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. The Centre is unique, in that it is one of the only safe spaces within the Downtown Eastside specifically and exclusively for women and their children. The Centre provides practical support to over 300 women and children on a daily basis by providing a safe drop-in centre, operating an emergency shelter, providing basic necessities, cultural and recreational programs, long-term skills development, and support for victim Assistance, counseling, and advocacy.

According to Alice Kendall, Coordinator of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, “High levels of violence, homelessness, addictions, poverty, and childhood and residential school trauma characterize the Downtown Eastside. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, injustice and injury.  Many of the women who were murdered frequented the Downtown Eastside Womens’ Centre. We knew them and remember their lives and struggles.”

Kendall has worked at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre since 1996 and in her experience: “Over the years, we were witness to the system’s gross negligence as well as racism and sexism in investigating these disappearances and murders. The inaction of the VPD and RCMP, the criminal justice branch’s decision not to pursue charges against Pickton in 1998, the Crown’s decision not to pursue the 20 additional murders charges, and the coroner’s office still holding the remains of the women are all horrific examples of lack of accountability.”

“The inquiry must focus only on the missing and murdered women of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. This inquiry has a responsibility to spot light those systemic injustices that allowed the unimaginable deaths of so many women who should never have gone missing or been murdered. We know that if women in any other neighbourhood were going missing at such a rate, there would absolutely have been a notable response,” further states Kendall.

The Downtown Eastside Women’s’ Centre is also adamant that, in their experience working with women, to date very little has changed in the conduct of the VPD and RCMP.