Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 64

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: I rise today to give voice to the missing women in British Columbia. Heather Chinnock, Sarah de Vries, Tanya Holyk and Sherry Irving are but a few names of the Aboriginal women who have gone missing in British Columbia. Sadly, these names and dozens of others are often buried deep within the footnotes of police investigations and public inquiries. The cries of the families who mourn the loss of their loved ones often fall upon deaf ears. Not only are these families forced to cope with the loss of their mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, they are also forced to accept the reality that they may never see justice.

Honourable senators, I have been working on this issue in my province of British Columbia for several years and have followed the progress of the investigations quite closely. Many years ago, when several Aboriginal women went missing, their loved ones and colleagues sought help from the police. Unfortunately the police did not heed their plea. At the time, we all remained silent. After a lot of hard work, a few cases were brought before the courts, providing a few of the families with the justice they had longed for.

Unfortunately, the majority of the families who have been suffering for well over a decade are still struggling to accept that the cases of their loved ones will never be heard in court.

This is a great tragedy, one that deeply affects not only members of the downtown Vancouver community where my family resides but also the province of British Columbia and, indeed, the entire nation.

Sadly, most of the women who have gone missing belong to extremely vulnerable and marginalized groups. They therefore do not have the resources they require to access justice. The Aboriginal families are not heard. The Aboriginal families are not getting justice.

Honourable senators, we must remain mindful that the 65 women who have been reported to have gone missing in Vancouver between 1978 and 2011 are Canadian women. Today again their families are struggling to be heard and to seek justice. I would like to conclude by giving a voice to one young woman who, before going missing herself, drew attention to the discrimination that she and many of her Aboriginal sisters were confronted with.

Sarah de Vries, who disappeared in 1998, wrote honestly and earnestly in her diary about the racial discrimination that she felt was prevalent in the way her community was dealing with the cases of missing women. When discussing instances of when non-Aboriginal women go missing, she stated it would be:

Front page news for weeks, people protesting in the streets. . . . While the happy hooker just starts to decay like she didn’t matter, expendable, dishonourable . . .


Ms. de Vries went on to state:

It’s a shame that society is that unfeeling. She was a woman’s little girl, gone astray, lost from the right path. She was a person.

These women’s families are seeking justice and still have to be heard by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.