No More Stolen Sisters: Safe Shelters, Safe Housing, Safe Services

** Please forward and read below on three IMPORTANT ways you can support **

Over the past two months a growing group of women residents of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) in Vancouver as well as a coalition of DTES and women-serving organizations have been raising the urgent issue of women’s safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. This has come in response to a number of reported sexual assaults in DTES shelters.

We have been dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in the Downtown Eastside. We have been outraged that all four of our correspondences have been ignored. We have been shocked that our delegation to BC Housing in March 2011 was met with a heavy presence of police and we were shut out from any dialogue on this issue. All this suggests to us that BC Housing as well as city and provincial officials do not consider women’s safety a priority within their funded facilities.

Sexual assaults against women in this neighbourhood are normalized as we have seen with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women. Women should not have to “choose” between the indignity of homelessness and being warehoused in shelters, and the high-risk of assault associated with both. We will not remain silent or complicit and are continuing a grassroots campaign based on three core demands that we believe can and should be met in a timely manner.

We are calling for:

1) A 24 hours low-barrier women-only (includes all self-identified women) drop-in space and shelter in the Downtown Eastside, ideally on Hastings Street between Main and Jackson. The establishment and operation of this service should be done through an accountable process including a transparent call for tenders and in consultation with community organizations and DTES resident women.

2) Housing for homeless women and children with at least 100 new units to be made available immediately.

3) Clear provincial standards for women’s safety in co-ed shelters to be implemented immediately in all existing and new shelters, including but not limited to:

• Women-only facilities in co-ed shelters with adequate women-only beds and services within those spaces.

• Women staff and training for all staff by women’s organizations experienced in issues of sexual and gender violence. Shelter contractors must demonstrate the ability to ensure safety and security for women shelter users and all staff must be able to demonstrate an understanding of gender inequalities that contribute to violence against women.

We are calling on allied groups, communities, and individuals to support us. Please get involved and spread the word!

For more information email project@dewc.ca or call 604 681 8480 x 234. Website:
http://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/

HOW TO SUPPORT

1) PETITION: Please sign our online petition. We are hoping to gather 5000 signatures in two weeks and need your help to make this happen! Link to petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/DTESsafe/petition.html

2) ENDORSE: If you are a member of a women’s group, social justice collective, community centre, union, service organization, or campus group, we request that you please endorse our three demands by emailing hwalia8@gmail.com or calling 778-885-0040.

3) WRITE-IN: We are requesting that everyone to please send an email along the lines of the below to all of the following people in BC Housing, City Council, MLA’s and MP’s.

RE: Safe Housing and Safe Services for Women in the DTES

It has come to my attention that for the past two months a coalition has been raising the urgent issue of women’s safety in shelters in the Downtown Eastside. I have been dismayed by the lack of response by all levels of government about the ongoing violence committed against women in
the Downtown Eastside. Sexual assaults against women in this neighbourhood in particular are normalized and their safety is not considered of highest priority as we have seen with the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered women. This would never be acceptable in any other part of town. I support the call for a 24 hours drop-in space and shelter for women in the Downtown Eastside, housing for homeless women and children, and clear protocols to be established within co-ed shelters.

Sincerely,
(NAME, ADDRESS, CONTACT INFO)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Open Letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson “Women Respond to Sexual Assaults in Downtown Eastside Church Shelter While Shelter and City of Vancouver Ignore Reports”: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6390

Press Release “Women Respond to Comments by Reverend Ric Matthews of First United Church; Reiterate Calls for 24-hour Women’s Shelter and Safe Housing in DTES”: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6496

Press Release “Women’s Action in Downtown Eastside for Women’s Safety” and Open Letter to BC Housing: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/6692

SELECTED MEDIA

Video of press conference: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/video/press-conference-women-respond-sexual-assault-dtes-shelter/6484

Podcast of Vancouver DTES women’s groups shut out of B.C. Housing office: http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/pivot-legal-society/2011/03/vancouver-dtes-womens-groups-shut-out-bc-housing-office

Women rail against violence in shelters: http://www.theprovince.com/news/assault+protest/4488619/story.html

Safe Housing, Safe Shelters and Safe Services for Women: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/vancouver-politics-and-service-provision/6707

More emergency shelter spaces needed for women, Vancouver council hears: http://www.straight.com/article-382418/vancouver/more-emergency-shelter-spaces-needed-women-vancouver-council-hears

Women’s groups outraged over sexual assault comments: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/03/02/bc-first-united-church-sexual-assaults.html

This campaign has been endorsed by:

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, DTES Power of Women Group, WISH Drop-In Centre Society, Walk4Justice, Battered Women’s Support Services, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, PACE Society, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, Vancouver Status of Women, Oxfam Canada, No One Is Illegal Vancouver, Vancouver Action, Council of Canadians, Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, Streams of Justice, Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, Carnegie Community Action Project, Purple Thistle Centre, W2 Community Media Arts Society, Life Skills Centre , Ending Violence Association of BC, Portland Hotel Society, Pivot Legal Society, UBC Centre for Race Autobiography Gender and Age studies, Interfaith Institute for Justice, Peace and Social Movements, Women Against Violence Against Women, Aboriginal Front Door

Vigil for the 500+ missing & murdered Aboriginal women

Help raise awareness about the violence and injustice suffered by Aboriginal women in Canada!

When: Friday, March 18th, 2pm
Where: Parliament Hill

* Click the images to download the posters

The McGill University Human Rights Working Group invites you take part in a vigil at Parliament Hill taking place Friday, March 18th at 2pm. The vigil will be the culmination of a two-week campaign in which McGill students, faculty and friends will strive to collect over 500 pairs of women’s shoes to be displayed on the steps of Parliament as a symbolic representation of the missing and murdered women. The shoes will be donated to women’s shelters in Ottawa and Montreal following the event.

Speakers at the vigil will include Kristen Gilchrist, Bridget Tolley and Lindsay Mossman. Those with personal stories or insight about the Stolen Sisters are welcome to come forward and share as well.

This event is part of a 13-day program honouring aboriginal women. The McGill Human Rights Working Group, in conjunction with McGill’s Aboriginal Law Students Association, the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, Missing Justice and the Aboriginal Health Group will be hosting a variety of events, beginning March 8th – International Women’s Day.

For more information about any of the events, including shoe donations and group transportation to Ottawa, please contact tiffany.boisvert@mail.mcgill.ca.

 

Research published on media coverage differences of missing and murdered women

Kristen Gilchrist, PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University, has published some of her research in the latest edition of Feminist Media Studies.

It takes a critical look at the differences between news coverage for missing/murdered Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women.

“NEWSWORTHY” VICTIMS?
Exploring differences in Canadian local press coverage of missing/murdered Aboriginal and White women

Kristen Gilchrist

More than 500 Aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since the 1980s yet press attention to this violence is relatively minimal. This paper compares local press coverage of matched cases: three missing/murdered Aboriginal women from Saskatchewan and three missing/murdered White women from Ontario. Quantitative and qualitative content analyses indicate stark disparities in the amount and content of coverage between groups. The Aboriginal women received three and a half times less coverage; their articles were shorter and less likely to appear on the front page. Depictions of the Aboriginal women were also more detached in tone and scant in detail in contrast to the more intimate portraits of the White women. Drawing on feminist media studies and theories of intersectionality, this paper argues that the simultaneous devaluation of Aboriginal womanhood and idealization of middle-class White womanhood contributes to broader systemic inequalities which re/produce racism, sexism, classism, and colonialism. This paper raises concerns about the broader implications of the relative invisibility of missing/murdered Aboriginal women in the press, and their symbolic annihilation from the Canadian social landscape.

Gilchrist, Kristen (2010) ‘“Newsworthy” Victims?’, Feminist Media Studies, 10: 4, 373 — 390.