Advocacy groups are considering withdrawing from the missing women inquiry to protest the provincial government’s decision not to fund their participation.
“I think we’ve got to be prepared to walk away,” said Terry Teegee, vice-chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council.
His group was granted limited standing at the Wally Oppal-led missing women inquiry that is set to begin next month in Vancouver. The inquiry will investigate the way police and other justice officials handled the disappearance of women from the Downtown Eastside in the 1990s.
Most of the women were – or are presumed – murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton. The DNA of Jackie Murdock, who belonged to one of the CSTC member First Nations, was found at Pickton’s farm.
The council and other groups, including sex-trade workers’ advocates and residents of the Downtown Eastside, are expected to provide valuable insight into marginalized populations at the inquiry.
But the province’s decision to fund only the missing women’s families has Teegee and the others rethinking their participation.
“We don’t have funding for this. We’re a society and we’re lucky if we have any extra funds for something like this, but we don’t,” Teegee said.
In a written statement sent to the media, Attorney General Barry Penner said the line had to be drawn somewhere.
“These continue to be challenging economic times, and there are limits to how many millions of taxpayer dollars we can provide to lawyers representing advocacy groups,” Penner said.
He went on to point out that the province already agreed to fund the less formal study commission that will travel to the North to learn more about the Highway of Tears and its victims, and make recommendations.