VICTORIA – The fact that the B.C. Liberals denied legal representation for groups granted standing at the Missing Women’s Inquiry while allowing out-of-control expenses from inquiry lawyers and staff shows that they missed the point, say New Democrats.
“The Liberals effectively forced community organizations representing marginalized groups out of the inquiry, with the excuse that they didn’t think it made sense to pay for more lawyers. Yet we now learn inquiry lawyers have billed the province millions of dollars – this just shows how badly the Liberals mismanaged the inquiry at the outset,” said Jenny Kwan, New Democrat MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.
“If the Liberals had imposed a realistic budget on the lawyers working for the inquiry, they could have directed funds to where they belonged: making sure that the voices of aboriginals, sex workers, and those living in poverty were heard at the Missing Women’s Inquiry.”
When Premier Clark was questioned about why the Liberals were refusing to provide legal counsel for community and advocacy organizations that were given standing at the inquiry, she said “we're focusing the dollars as much as we can on the front lines, on helping women who need the support rather than just spending all of the money on lawyers.”
"Since when is refusing to give voice to the frontline workers that were closest to the missing and murdered women and the women who are still at risk today focusing dollars on the front lines?" questioned New Democrat aboriginal relations critic Scott Fraser.
“It’s appalling that Premier Clark silenced the voices of community organizations in the name of saving money, while at the same time imposing no cost limits on inquiry lawyers and staff.”
The Aboriginal Front Door Society, Amnesty International Canada, Atira Women's Resources Society, Battered Women's Support Services, Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United against Violence Society, Ending Violence Association of B.C., Feb. 14 Women's Memorial March Committee, First Nations Summit, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Union Gospel Mission, West Coast LEAF, WISH Drop-in Centre Society and other organizations refused to participate in the inquiry after those given standing were refused legal counsel.