Indigenous women Verna Benson, second right, and Veronica Rose, right, both of the Gitxsan First Nation, attend the third annual Women’s March in Vancouver, on Saturday January 19, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Indigenous women Verna Benson, second right, and Veronica Rose, right, both of the Gitxsan First Nation, attend the third annual Women’s March in Vancouver, on Saturday January 19, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Report about violence against Downtown Eastside women calls for change

Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors makes 35 recommendations

A group on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside says Indigenous women need to be included in leadership and decision-making positions in governments and other organizations if violence against women is going to stop.

It’s one of 35 key recommendations made in Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The report was released by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Co-author Harsha Walia said that although the report is based on input from 113 Indigenous and 15 non-Indigenous local women, it shouldn’t be considered in isolation.

“Even though this work is located very much in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, we’re very clear that it’s located in the context of colonization across these lands,” Walia said.

“Our most pressing recommendation that all 128 collaborators and participants were unanimous on was active Indigenous women’s leadership in all levels of decision making and full Indigenous jurisdiction over Indigenous lands and services and laws,” she said.

Walia said that would mean the full adoption of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Other recommendations include safe housing for every single Indigenous women on and off reserve, an end to all child apprehensions, a slew of legislative reform, and the establishment of an Indigenous women’s centre on the Downtown Eastside run by and for women.

The 220-page report comes as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is expected to release its own final report this month.

Inquiry chief commissioner Marion Buller had requested a two year extension last year, but the federal government allotted six months.

The Vancouver women’s centre has standing in the inquiry and is submitting the report to the inquiry for consideration.

Walia said the report is unprecedented because it is rooted in the experiences of women on the Downtown Eastside, the neighbourhood where serial killer Robert Pickton found many of his victims.

She said the report also looks at a range of issues beyond physical violence: from housing and poverty to policing and child apprehensions.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says the report is “timely,” as it comes the day after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is Indigenous, was ejected from the Liberal caucus.

Reconciliation has to come from the grassroots up and not the top down, he said, which is why the recommendations of a report based on contributions from so many women on the Downtown Eastside should be taken seriously.

Several of the report contributors said they don’t know what to expect from the national inquiry, but it’s important for the recommendations to be concrete and not abstract, and for the federal government to actually act on them instead of allowing them to gather dust on a shelf.

Sophie Merasty, a Cree contributor to Red Women Rising, said she doesn’t expect an overhaul of the system to occur overnight, but she expects legal changes.

“Some serious laws need to be changed and the way the justice system is served to Indigenous people,” she said.

Merasty said her sister was killed on the Downtown Eastside in 1991 when she was pushed from a window and fell to the alley below. Her perpetrator was convicted of aggravated assault instead of manslaughter and he was released from custody after six months due to time already served, she said.

Change will involve addressing issues like the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in prisons and the “astronomical” number of Indigenous children who are removed from their families and communities, she said.

Report co-author Carol Muree Martin said Indigenous women need to heal, while the Canadian culture that stereotypes and disrespects Indigenous women needs to change.

“It’s so thick within this Canadian system. We all need to roll up our sleeves and start doing something about it,” she said.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some of the hundreds of pounds of trash removed by divers last month from Abbotsford’s Walmsley Lake.(Henry Wang photo)
VIDEO: Divers remove 462 pounds of trash from Abbotsford lake

Walmsley Lake dive uncovers several tires, hundreds of drink containers and a tent

Comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is scheduled to bring his Seriously? tour to Abbotsford Centre on Nov. 4 after it was cancelled twice in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Jeff Dunham’s ‘Seriously?’ tour rescheduled for Abbotsford Centre

Show set for Nov. 4 after twice being cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
Harrison woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Once a star player with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team, Kayli Sartori is moving into a new role coaching the next generation of Cascades. (UFV photo)
Chilliwack’s Kayli Sartori goes from court to coach with UFV basketball Cascades

Sartori is taking a new path as part of the U-Sports female basketball apprentice coaching program

Once again Fraser East is among the health service delivery areas with the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the province. (Datawrapper)
Fraser East sees third highest rate of COVID-19 cases in B.C.

The region is seeing a sustained increase in new COVID-19 cases

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Trent Miner is returning to the Vancouver Giants, the team announced. He has been released by the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.(Rik Fedyck/Vancouver Giants)
Trent Miner returns to play goal for Vancouver Giants

Netminder was part of epic 11-game winning-streak by Langley-based team

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Most Read