My name is Gladys Radek, from Walk4Justice. I am writing in response to the article in the Georgia Strait about the rally held in front of the police station on October 4, 2010, where some of our hard working colleagues were consequently arrested.

After reading your article regarding this I feel it is necessary to say a few things.

First of all, the Vancouver Police Department has rejected allegations of gender violence? Of course they will deny this.

I agree, yes, there is a heavier police presence in the Downtown Eastside in the past year or so. But, what is the difference in having more police presence with the same discriminatory attitudes? As a long time resident and advocate in the DTES, I have personally witnessed how the police have targeted the women on the streets, how they deliberately tell the men in the group to “get lost” while they search the women. More often than not, they end up arresting those women for carrying drugs and the dealers are laughing at them from a short distance away, watching everything go down. I don’t think the police realize that once they have arrested these women that their lives are in imminent danger because they have to pay their debt to the drug dealers once they are let back out on the street, usually within a few hours. Sometimes drastic measures are taken if that woman does not pay back what the police took away.

I find it interesting that there were a few people who spoke to reporters stating they felt Ashley Machskinic was thrown out the Regent Hotel and yet it was a matter of hours where the police had already made their statement that foul play was not suspected and that she had committed suicide. The BC Coroner’s office did not dispute, as it had already been decide by the police that she had committed suicide. No further investigation needed. I am more inclined to believe the family members who say that suicide was not an option for Ashley, that she enjoyed life and was loved by a very large family who knew that she did not have suicidal intentions.

The police are quick to judge whether a person is a credible witness or not. Many people in the DTES have been abused by the authorities and drug dealers over the years and prefer not to come forward because of on going lack of trust between the people and the authorities, in this case the police. The fact that many of the poor and vulnerable are either addicted to drugs or alcohol does not make them less credible, especially when witnessing death. The fear they have in coming forward is that there is no protection from the drug dealers if they do come forward. Their homes are on the very streets the dealers have control of.

There are ways that we can eliminate the drug cartels in the DTES. The first step would be to bridge the gap between the organizations and the Vancouver Police Department. With all the people working together we could take our streets back.

The VPD could work on diversity. Undercover policing with diversity would make it more difficult for the dealers to form their cartels. As we all know many different races have formed gangs throughout the community and control areas of their choice. Many organizations are powerless to remove the criminal activities because of the lack of police trust and involvement.

There should be a mandatory training module added to all organizations and police in the DTES. This would help them realize that everyone has rights even if they are poor or vulnerable. These people are down there for a reason. The majority of them have been victims of violence and have been forced out of their communities. They come here in the hopes of building a better life. Women are especially vulnerable because they are treated as disposable.

Vancouver’s legacy is now known throughout the world as a serial killers haven because of the last 2 decades of misconduct on behalf of the Vancouver Police Department, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the judicial system, as a whole. Vancouver also holds the record for the most Missing and Murdered women across Canada. The majority of that being unsolved murders. It has also become a haven for rapists who are being released from prisons across the country and at high risk to re-offend.

The one thing that comes to my mind is to get the halfway house in the DTES moved out of the area. Of course that would create another NIMBY war with the rest of Vancouver. But, why have a facility like this so close to where the most vulnerable sisters of our society happen to live? We have to remember that the people down here are society’s throwaways. They are sons, daughters, sisters and brothers of mainstream society. They come from all walks of life and end up in the DTES because they have no other options.

Proper policing and bridging the gap with the community members would benefit all.

Sincerely, Gladys Radek