Welcome! I love to write, and I love sharing what I write with my readers. I vary my style as much as I can-posting events, creative non-fiction, prose and poetry and the occasional video. Enjoy!



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The War Inside

The War Inside:

By: Christine McFarlane


I hear you say, “Hello?”

“Your favorite person is coming over,” you tell me two minutes later. I can tell you are feeling a bit tense. I can see it in your face. It’s in the way you crinkle your eyes, the nervous movement of your hand as you push your glasses further up onto your face and the way that you’re trying to joke with me. That’s the way it is with us, joking even in moments of seriousness. There’s nothing wrong with joking, but sometimes I don’t know how to take it.

“Who’s coming over?” I ask. I can feel my stomach begin to churn, and my heart going KA THUMP….KA THUMP….KA THUMP. I hear you say

“Your ex mother, she’ll be here tomorrow.”

Well, you really don’t say that, you say the person’s name. I don’t want to name her here, but I guess I have, haven’t I? Just check the two lines above this. I struggle with what you have just said; in fact I would say there is a downright war going on inside my head.

I tell people I’ve closed that door and I’m moving forward, but really…. I can’t let go of this woman who caused me so much pain in my past. Even now, when I almost thirty-nine, and she hasn’t been in my life since I was ten years old.

I jump from the cold hard chair that I’m sitting in. It almost turns over, as my feet hit the ground, but I turn around and slowly put it back on its four legs.

“I can’t be here,” I mutter.

“I can’t be here,” I say a little louder and with as much conviction as I can muster up. I look around me, my gaze falling on books, averting to an eraser that is lying under the desk in which you sit. A war of emotions rage inside, my thoughts start tripping over each other.

“I have to leave, I can’t be here.” I say again,

“Where am I going to go? Should I go to Tim Horton’s, grab a coffee? I ask.  I laugh inside because I am thinking “yeah right, an extra large coffee is going to just do you wonders.”

“Its okay Chrissy” you say

“No its not” I argue inside my head.

The woman I’ve let myself be afraid of even after all of these years, will be here in this very room I am standing in.

I’ve been told so many times, that I just need to let go, that I shouldn’t give someone so much power over myself, and over my emotions, but I do with this woman. I don’t understand why. Well, maybe I do. On a very intrinsic level, I have always wanted a mother, and I have always wanted this woman to say

“Yes Christine, I was wrong.”

But I know; I cannot make my adoptive mother or my adoptive father make this admission.

There’s a downright war going on inside, but I know I must hold my head up high, and somehow learn to let this go, because I can’t let this kill me anymore.

(this is a small part of a work in progress, stay tuned!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Locating Compassion in Land Ethics Conference-A Photo Essay

The Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts on Location/Dislocation and the Aboriginal Studies Program Presented a "Locating Compassion in Land Ethics" conference on March 23-25, 2012
(Dr. Jill Carter)

Over the course of the March 23-25, 2012 weekend, scholars, artists and activists from myriad disciplines within the GTA gathered to consider the history of Toronto (the Gathering Place). They were invited by conference organizer Dr. Jill Carter (Anishinaabe-Ashkenazi) to engage in discussion the original laws that governed Toronto, and to remember the connections and responsibilities contemporary Torontonians hold to the Indigenous Peoples who stewarded this land before contact. What follows below this blog post is a photo essay of the conference.  Please enjoy, and I apologize for my lateness in posting this.

The first workshop of the day "Sweet Connections of Local Environmental Health and Honeybees" on March 24, 2012 was led by local beekeeper Brian Hamlin from 10am until 1pm.  Brian Hamlin led participants through several areas of honeybee culture, ancient connections between man and bees, world food and bees, medicines from the bees, and current environmental challenges for bees, and were led to a rooftop apiary located on the U of T campus. Participants were given the opportunity to taste various types of honey and honey effusions.

(The Bee Keeper's Bible)

(Local Bee Keeper Brian Hamlin checking a rooftop apiary)

(Honeycomb Beeswax)

Following Brian Hamlin's workshop was a talk by William Woodworth Raweno:kwas (B.Arch., Ph.D.) Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River and Timothy Brian LeDuc, Ph.D. from the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University titled "Recovering the Tribal Identity of Toronto: Ancestral Conversations." Woodworth and LeDuc spoke about how there is "a conscious amnesia of the deep cultural roots and history of the Toronto region" and it is this amnesia that plays a large part in the ambiguous  and uncertain identity that continues to inform conversations around the city today.

(Presenters: Timothy Brian LeDuc and William Woodworth)

(Recovering Tribal Identity of Toronto)

Following the talk on "Recovering the Tribal Identity of Toronto was a workshop facilitated by Mimi Gellman, called "Reconnecting with Place: Mapping the Interior Landscape." Gellman, an Anishinaabe-Ashkenzi-Metis (Ojibway/Jewish/ Metis) is a conceptual artist, educator and Ph.D. candidate in the Cultural Studies program at Queens University. She is a practicing multi-disciplinary visual artist and curator and her current Ph.D. research is on the metaphysics of Indigenous mapping and how it investigates the relationship between Aboriginal cartographies, Indigenous aesthetics and senses of place.

(Mimi Gellman showing two participants what mapping looks like)

Sunday March 25, 2012

Panel One- Compassion and Scholarship in Thought and Deed

Panel One participants consisted of two U of T students, Jacob Nerenberg and Zexi Wang. Nerenberg and Wang discussed forms of alienation and dispossession upon which the University of Toronto is built. They spoke of how the University is thought of as an imperial institution, and traced the way these patterns of violence intersect in downtown Toronto, a site where foundational and ongoing colonial dispossession is multiplied locally and globally-in the form of marginalization of migrants, aggressive resource capital and manipulative governance.

Followed by this discussion was "Undergraduate Capacity Building and Experiences in Participatory Action Research: Process, Ethics and Methodology in Two Urban Aboriginal Diabetes Research Projects," led by Jessica Keeshig-Martin and Krystine Abel

Panel Discussion: Zexi Wang, Jacob Nerenberg, Brian Parisee, Jessica Keeshig-Martin and Krystine Abel)

Other topics included in the workshop included a student roundtable discussion where students Meghan Young and Sylvia Plain discussed their experiences in the Aboriginal studies program versus other experiences in other programs/courses they may have taken at the University of Toronto

(Students: Jennifer Seidel, Meghan Young, Sylvia Plain)

Lastly I would like to finish this photo essay blog post with two more photos that included a Lunch and Learn workshop that used Anishnaabe Symbol Based Reflection: An Indigenous Approach to Wholistic Research Methods (hosted by Jessica Keeshig-Martin and Krystine Abel, and a photo of the interim Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives, Dr. Deborah McGregor who spoke about "Anishnaabe Knowledge and Sustainability."

In the Anishnaabe Symbol Based Reflection, Keeshig-Martin and Abel explained that this concept was developed in 2005 by Dr. Lynn Lavallee and a group of research participants and used as a research process that asks participants to create art and symbols to represent the concept/question of the research project. In this workshop participants were asked to explore the question "How do you take care of yourself while conducting research." 

(Meghan Young and Sylvia Plain with their Anishnaabe Symbol Based Reflection pieces)

On March 25, 2012, the conference closed with a keynote address by Professor Deborah McGregor on "Anishnaabe Knowledge and Sustainability." As an Anishnaabe woman, McGregor presented the view that "not only do Aboriginal peoples have knowledge around environmental science, but that such knowledge is also gendered." She explained this in relation to Anishnaabe responsibilities around water in Ontario, and spoke candidly about how Anishinaabe world views, philosophies, principles and values also form the foundation for Anishnaabe environmental science. She argued that "Environmental science from an Anishinaabe knowledge perspective focuses on the ethical conduct required to ensure appropriate relationships with all of Creation, and that proper relationships and conduct are required for all beings to ensure sustainability, not just for people but for all of Creation.

(Dr. Deborah McGregor)

Miiwe-That's all.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guest Post: Cherie Dimaline

(Cherie Dimaline- Photo Taken By Susan Blight)

Cherie Dimaline is the writer in residence for First Nations House at the University of Toronto. Before taking this job, she spent time working for the Ontario government, running a Native Friendship Centre, assisting at a large women's magazine, curating a police museum, and as a magician's assistant. Her first book, Red Rooms, was published in 2007 and won Fiction Book of the Year at the Anskonk Literary Festival. It has since sold-out and gone into a second printing.

Her work appears in two 2011 McGraw-Hill Ryerson texts; an anthology of love stories called Zaagidiwin (Ningwakwe Press); in a limited edition volume of gothic stories about Toronto produced for the 2009 Luminato Festival (Diaspora Dialogues) and will be featured in several upcoming collections including Exotic Gothic 4 (PS Publishing) and a book of traditional Metis Rogarou tales (University of Alberta).

Her novel ‘The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy’ will be published in 2012 by Theytus Books

Cherie lives in Toronto with her husband and their 3 children. She is the editor of both FNH Magazine ( and Muskrat Magazine ( Cherie collects books, teacups and tattoos.

It all comes down to the thump and sizzle of the words… you just have to get them out
By: Cherie Dimaline

While trying to think of a topic for this esteemed blog assignment I picked up my copy of ‘Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights’ compiled and edited by Jon Winokur. My copy is borrowed (ten years ago, now) from then Chatelaine Editor-in-Chief and author, Rona Maynard, with clever quips checked-off in her no-nonsense, thin blue ink. (I’ll have to return it someday…)It’s a fine guide that usually inspires some sort of inspiration, so I flip randomly and find myself on page 123.

I think that to write well and convincingly, one must be somewhat poisoned by emotion. Dislike, displeasure, resentment, fault-finding, imagination, passionate remonstrance, a sense of injustice- they all make fine fuel,” says Edna Ferber.

And so I start to think that I need to pick a topic that makes my blood boil and my nails crack. I think about the fact that I am from a landless nation- the Metis of Ontario, that Aboriginal women and children are under-serviced and over-policed. I think about selfish things that make me angry, like the fact that no one seems to do the dishes on their designated night even though the calendar is clearly marked in coordinating colours, or that my one dog (who shall remain nameless for the sake of prideful anonymity) can never quite hold it until I get home and I am left to mop the floor before I even get my shoes off after work. I grit my teeth recalling exes of all sort and shade- boyfriends, friends, colleagues, even a spouse- but soon that turns to laughter, running cartoonish revenge scenarios through my tired head. So, I check back in the book. Across the page- on 122 to be exact- William Zinsser tells me something entirely different from Edna.

“There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough.”

Hmm. Maybe I am going on too much. I should be succinct; Zinsser succinct. I try to round up all my cold and churlish thoughts sparked from the first advice and corral them in the pithy borders of the second.

“Life is unfair. And a lot of people suck.”

Well, that’s certainly to the point, but doesn’t really make for a compelling blog. (Thanks for nothing William Zinsser.)

Now I am left with what it always come down to; the one constant in all my blogs, articles, stories and books- the words themselves. The sentences they stitch. The paragraphs that slither out. The pages that get stuck to the roof of your mouth trying to spit them out onto a bed pillow. It all comes back to writing.

Writing, that’s what I’ll write about. But now, what can I say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times. What advice can I give that isn’t echoing the 227 pages of the aptly named ‘Advice for Writers’? Being lazy perhaps (I prefer to think of it as ‘honouring the work of others while relying on it to do my own’) I immediately think about a piece I recently read online, an advice blog (coincidence? I think not). It’s from the rumpus and it’s called Dear Sugar. (Check it out here - 
In this particular piece of advice, she is responding to an emerging writer who seems to spend more time being plaintive than writing and who has asked for some guidance. I’ll let this segment from her answer fill in the blanks.
“If you had a two-sided chalkboard in your living room I’d write humility on one side and surrender on the other for you. That’s what I think you need to find and do to get yourself out of the funk you’re in. The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at 26, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there. It laments that you’ll never be as good as David Foster Wallace—a genius, a master of the craft—while at the same time describing how little you write. You loathe yourself, and yet you’re consumed by the grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You’re up too high and down too low. Neither is the place where we get any work done.
“So write... Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

And so, here we are, dear readers of Christine’s blog, the one true piece of advice we can all take as a universal pill to ease what ails you, “Write like a motherfucker.” I can hear the trumpets now, the poets clutching their weeping hearts for the glory of the sentiment, the blocked would-be-authors throwing up hands and papers, free at last from the confines of stalled genius. And honestly, it really is that simple. Give it all you got. In the end it’s not your intent or ego that will publish your book. It’s the words. It all comes down to the thump and sizzle of the words… you just have to get them out

Monday, April 16, 2012


Native Women's 
Association of Canada

Press Release--For Immediate Release

Native Women’s Association of Canada Responds to Cuts to Health Projects

Ottawa, ON (April 13, 2012)--The Health Department of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is extremely distressed and concerned over Health Canada’s decision to cut all funding for 
projects aimed at improving the health of Aboriginal women in Canada. Few people in the world are in greater need of human rights protection than Indigenous peoples. Although governments have a duty and responsibility to ensure the welfare and safety of all their citizens, Indigenous peoples are often the target 
of policies designed to erode or suppress their rights and distinct cultural identities. Canada is no exception!

NWAC has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to address shameful inequities that continue to plague Aboriginal women’s health in Canada. Aboriginal women are the least healthy and suffer the greatest chronic health conditions than any other segment of Canadian society. The burden of ill health 
affects them as individuals, their families, communities and the health system as a whole. However, Aboriginal women lag far behind the rest of the Canadian population in both of these areas. 

Health Canada has advised NWAC today that it will not support its national innovative health programsor policy work, some of which have been held up as “best practices” in health, in order to preserve direct services to First Nations living on reserve only. Currently the vast majority of Aboriginal women (more 
than 70%) do not live on reserves, rather in rural and urban centers. This budget shows that for the most part, Aboriginal women’s health is not a priority for this Government.

Aboriginal women raise their families most often single handedly and in poverty situations (over 40% of Aboriginal women live in poverty). Further, it is well known that Aboriginal women carry the burden of ill health and have the highest rates of chronic disease. They experience unacceptably high levels of violence and abuse, Aboriginal women are newly diagnosed with HIV at over three times the rate of their non-Aboriginal counterparts, have atrocious disparities in suicide rates, and live on average almost sixyears less that non Aboriginal women. 

Yes, more is needed to help local communities struggling with health disparities, but cutting the head off the national voice for Aboriginal women’s health shows a lack of commitment to address the issues that affect the most marginalized population in this country -- a country that is envied by many other nations
across the globe for its ‘great’ health care system and quality of life.

“NWAC is calling on the public to demand that the Federal Government of Canada re-think its choices and give Canadians the information they need to understand the impacts of this budget and re-think this devastating decision. Today’s cuts to Aboriginal health and well-being will be tomorrow’s burden.” says Native Women’s Association of Canada’s President, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.

Graphic Novel Review- "Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws-Bear Walker"

(Image taken from

Graphic Novel Review By Christine McFarlane

Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws-Bear Walker
Published in 2011-32 pages full colour
$11.95 CDN

“Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws: Bear Walker,” is another delightful read for fans of Anishnaabe author Chad Solomon and his Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paw graphic novel series.

Bear Walker is a full color graphic novel that is available in paperback only. Bear Walker, like Solomon’s other graphic novels, which are based on the 7 Grandfather teachings are set in 18th century colonized North America, and follows the adventures of two Ojibway brothers.

The oldest brother is Rabbit, is a shrewd and headstrong little guy who is always looking for something fun and interesting to do and then there is his younger brother Bear Paws who is a 10-year-old boy, a “Little Giant” of a kid who loves to spend time with his brother playing jokes on people and animals. Bear Paws is also the older brother who will jump in and save Rabbit from schemes and adventures gone awry.

The two brothers are good, likable kids, who sprinkle themselves with spirit powder to transform into animals. They are always trying to get out of trouble, and trying to get out of chores. In “Bear Walker,” the first snow of winter has fallen on the village and the characters Rabbit and Bear Paws set out with their friend Strawberry to do a little tobogganing. As always, mischief and adventure are there to greet them when they encounter a mysterious Tall Bear. With the help of their mom, Clover Blossom, the two boys learn some important lessons about humility.

Young readers, and big kids at heart will enjoy following the adventures of Solomon and Meyer’s energetic young characters, and the joking and ironic word plays between the Ojibwe adults, children and animals. Solomon’s artwork is eye catching and appealing, and the dialogue between the characters is easy to follow. If you want a great book for your child, the “Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws: Bear Walker” is one to pick up.

Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws, “Bear Walker” is written by Chad Solomon, Christopher Meyer and Spirit Bear Productions. Artwork is also done by Chad Solomon. You can order this 32 page full colour graphic novel through 

For other books by Chad Solomon, please visit his website You can also see more Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws comics in Anishinabek News at

Thursday, April 12, 2012


(Personal Note- Congratulations Waubgeshig Rice! If you haven't read this book yet, please do, it's awesome!)


Theytus Books is proud to announce Waubgeshig Rice’s book Midnight Sweatlodge has made it to the finalist list for the Forward Review Multicultural Book of the Year Award for 2011.

“The editors of ForeWord Reviews are thrilled to present the following titles as award finalists. We congratulate the authors and publishers of these exceptional books … ForeWord's Book of the Year Awards program was designed for booksellers and librarians to share in the process of discovering distinctive books across a number of genres with judgments based on their own authority and on patron interests. After months of winnowing down the award finalists’ list, the editors at ForeWord are confident in their selections, and our judges agree, saying this year’s titles are the best they’ve seen!”

Midnight Sweatlodge has been included amongst the best independent titles across Canada and the United States from 2011. It tells the tale of family members, friends and strangers who gather together to partake in this ancient healing ceremony. Each person seeks traditional wisdom and insight to overcome pain and hardship, and the characters give us glimpses into their lives that are both tearful and true. Rice captures the raw emotion and unique challenges of modern Aboriginal life. It’s a hard-hitting and genuine look at the struggles First Nations people face.

Waubgeshig Rice grew up on a reserve in the Wasauksing First Nation, near Parry Sound, Ontario. When he was 16, he read Jordan Wheeler's Brothers in Arms Rice thought, 'Wow, I can really relate to this,' and maybe if I wrote about some of my experiences some other kids on other reserves might be able to relate to it someday as well. That really catalyzed my desire to explore the written word as a viable option for storytelling and for maintaining our culture and some of the stories I heard as a kid."

The winners will be announced at the American Librarian Associations meeting in Anaheim, Florida on Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 10 am.

Please stay tuned to our social media regarding this and other exciting news from Theytus Books.

For further information please contact:
Ann Doyon
250-493-7181 ext 2232

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is Home?

(Drawing By: Christine McFarlane)

What is Home?

I learned this exercise at a recent conference, the "Locating Compassion in Land Ethics" that was organized and held by The JHI Program for the Arts on Location/Dislocation and the Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Toronto through the March 23-25, 2012 weekend. In a couple of days, I will be posting a photo essay of that event.

The drawing I have included in this post was drawn when I participated in a workshop titled "Reconnecting With Place: Mapping the Interior Landscape," with conceptual artist, educator and PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies Program at Queen's University, Mimi Gellman.  Mimi Gellman has been doing research on the metaphysics of Indigenous mapping and investigates the relationship between Aboriginal cartographies, Indigenous aesthetics and senses of place. Her concept of mapping is intriguing and I recall that at first when she asked participants "what is home?, I was initially hesitant about wanting to do the exercise.  My mind changed when I realized that I was about to let fear guide me into not being an active participant. You know the saying "feel the fear and do it anyways"....  well I did it. First I journaled it out in my ever handy book I carry with me, and then I let myself vision the concept of home-hence the drawing above. Here is what I wrote about home and what it means.... Its nothing earth shattering, but for a minute, after you read this, try considering what home means to you, you may surprise yourself with your answer or you may not. Its up to you.


Home is the path I have taken to regain my identity, to discover who I am and the place I take up in this universe, in my very body, my circle of friends, and my community.

It is a path that is long and winding, but gravelly and rocky because its been filled with many challenges. It is the wind that whispers around me, yet screams if I hesitate or question myself, doubt what I am doing or where I am heading.

Home is the relationship I have with my niece, the unconditional love I feel and the yearning I feel to be there for her as much as I possibly can, because its not only my duty, but my role as an aunty and a role model.

Home is the path I have taken and still undertake to learn about myself and others around me. Its being able to sit in silence, or be at home and know that it is okay to be alone. 

Home is knowing that I am where I am in life and that its up to me, to be the change I want to see in life.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Groups Affirms Boycott of discriminatory Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

Open Letter: Groups affirm boycott of discriminatory Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
April 10, 2012

Read more:

Fifteen organizations issued letters directed to Commissioner Wally Oppal confirming that they will not be participating in the “second phase” of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, citing concerns about discrimination and the conduct of the Commission to date. 

The attached letters from an informal coalition of advocacy and service providing groups, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations are written in response to an invitation letter sent by Commissioner Wally Oppal, asking organizations to return to the Inquiry. 

Full PDF copies at:

Text of the letter from the coalition of advocacy and service providing groups available below.

For more information, please contact: 

Aboriginal Front Door Society, Mona Woodward, Executive Director, (604) 697-5662 
Amnesty International Canada, Craig Benjamin, (613) 744 -7667 ext 235 
Atira Women’s Resource Society, Janice Abbott, Executive Director, (604) 331-1420 
B.C. Civil Liberties Association, David Eby, Executive Director, (778) 865-7997 
Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, (604) 808-0507 
Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council, Terry Teegee, Vice Tribal Chief, (250) 640-3256 
Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society, Katrina Pacey, (604) 729-7849 
Ending Violence Association British Columbia, Tracy Porteous, Executive Director, (604) 633-2506, x11 
February 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee, Lisa Yellow-Quill, 
First Nations Summit, Colin Braker, Communications Director, (604) 926-9903 
Native Women’s Association of Canada, Claudette Dumont-Smith, Exec. Director, (613) 722-3033 x223 
PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society, Karen Mirsky, (778) 838-2972 
Pivot Legal Society, Doug King, Lawyer, (778) 898-6349 
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, (250) 490-5314 
Union Gospel Mission, Genesa Greening, Director, Community Strategies, (604) 506-0845 
West Coast LEAF, Executive Director, Kasari Govinder, (604) 684-8772, x212 
WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Kate Gibson, Executive Director, (604)669-9474 


Missing Women Commission of Inquiry 
Attn: Commissioner Wally Oppal, QC 
#1402 - 808 Nelson Street 
Vancouver, BC 
V6Z 2H2 

April 10, 2012 

Dear Commissioner Oppal, 

Open Letter: Non-participation in the Policy Forums/Study Commission 

We write to advise the Commission that we, the undersigned groups, will not be participating in the Policy Forums or Study Commission aspects of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (the “Inquiry”). We are not prepared to lend the credibility of our respective organizations’ names and expertise to this Inquiry, which can only be described as a deeply flawed and illegitimate process. The Commission has lost all credibility among Aboriginal, sex work, human rights and women’s organizations that work with and are comprised of the very women most affected by the issues this Inquiry is charged with investigating. 

Many of the organizations listed below have for years been demanding an inquiry into the disappearances of so many marginalized women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and across the province. When this Inquiry was finally called, we fully expected it to be a meaningful and inclusive process that would respect and honour the expertise of women, Aboriginal people, sex workers and other community members with important insight and knowledge to share. However, it has become painfully clear over the course of the Inquiry’s proceedings that this Inquiry is not a meaningful and inclusive process. Instead, it has served to repeat the same discrimination and exclusion that we had hoped it was going to uncover. 

Women have been going missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and across the province, for decades. Women, especially Aboriginal women, sex workers, and women living in poverty, continue to face extreme violence in their lives, and experience profound barriers to reporting their victimization to police. Police and government failures to take women’s safety seriously and to commit resources to improving the social and economic conditions in which women live are issues of long-standing concern to all of the undersigned groups. It is disturbing to note that this Inquiry into the disappearances and murders of sex workers from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is taking place while government funding for sex worker support groups like PACE (Providing Alternatives Counselling and Education Society) and PEERS (Prostitutes Empowerment Education Resource Society) has been drastically reduced to the point that these two essential organizations may soon be forced to close their doors. Women’s organizations across the province are feeling a similar squeeze. 

We feel that it is important to state our profound disappointment in how this Inquiry has unfolded. Based on our experiences of exclusion from the Inquiry process, as well as our assessment of events occurring throughout the course of the proceedings, we have no confidence that our participation in the Policy Forums or Study Commission will contribute to the truth, reconciliation and accountability that we fully expected when this Inquiry was initiated. Instead, we will continue to seek alternative ways to support the families of the missing women and the vulnerable communities who continue to deal with ongoing violence, and we will advise you of this work. 

When the provincial government denied funding to the community group participants who had been calling for this public inquiry for over a decade (the “Community Group Participants”), the Inquiry became the subject of intense and well-deserved criticism. We are extremely disappointed that multiple appeals to the Province to remedy this injustice were unsuccessful, and that Community Group Participants were unable to exercise the standing rights granted to them by the Commissioner. 

The failure to ensure equal access to the Inquiry process for the Community Group Participants granted standing made it clear to us, as it was to the broader public, that there would be deep inequities in terms of what evidence would be tendered and what interests would be represented. The value of the Inquiry was called into question and, at that point, so much more could have been done by the Commission to fight for the integrity of the process. The lack of commitment to fighting for the appropriate, meaningful, and adequately funded involvement of Community Group Participants was extremely disappointing. Additionally, former Attorney General Barry Penner, current Attorney General Shirley Bond, and Premier Clark themselves bear responsibility for refusing to adequately fund Community Group Participants, marginalizing their essential contributions and undermining the legitimacy of the Inquiry process. The families, who have appropriately been provided counsel, are unable to offer the same contributions that would have been made by the many other groups who were shut out. These groups have decades of relevant policy expertise, have been supporting women who have experienced the most extreme levels of violence imaginable, have been tracking deaths of women for many years, and have been analyzing the serious problems with policing in British Columbia, as well as other systems such as child protection, income assistance, housing, healthcare, and transportation. These groups could have made a positive difference to the proceeding and outcomes for women and families in our Province. 

We would like to take this opportunity to set out a number of other concerns we have had as this Inquiry has progressed. 

Limitations of the terms of reference: In unilaterally setting the terms of reference for the Inquiry without consulting any of the affected parties, the provincial government unnecessarily restricted the Commission to examining the criminal justice system and its handling of the Pickton investigation, without providing for a fulsome examination of the various systemic issues leading to marginalized women’s particular vulnerability to violence, the lack of protections available, or the epidemic of missing and murdered women in British Columbia. 

No lawyers for organizations and community members who represent crucial perspectives: 25 publicly funded lawyers have represented police and government interests and yet no lawyers were funded to represent the Community Group Participants who originally demanded an inquiry in the first place. The Community Group Participants represent essential perspectives and experiences that have not been, and cannot be, adequately represented by Commission counsel, the amici or the two very dedicated but overburdened lawyers who represent the families of the missing women. 

Lack of Witness Protection: The Inquiry has recreated many of the barriers that women face when requiring police protection. One key example of this was the failure to grant adequate protection for the identities of vulnerable witnesses who agreed to come forward to tell their stories. Instead, the Commissioner granted significant protections for people convicted of assaulting the exact women that the Commission was hoping to hear from. 

Delayed, incomplete disclosure: The failure to order the disclosure of the book written by Lori Shenher, a lead VPD investigator on the Pickton file, for months, the order requiring the book to be redacted, and then the failure to mark it as an exhibit so that the public may have access to it, is just one example of the inadequate and delayed disclosure that has become commonplace throughout this Inquiry. 

Impossible Timelines: The provincial government has set a deadline of June 30, 2012, for the production of the Commissioner’s report. Hearings will end by April 30. This arbitrary timeline cannot and will not provide for an appropriately diligent examination of all relevant issues. The Commissioner’s request for an extension was refused, and all indications are that similar demands made recently by the families of Pickton’s victims will also be rejected. 

Conflict of interest: The Commission hired a former Vancouver Police Department officer to conduct witness interviews and to “help” write an “independent” report on the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP investigations that was intended to be authored by the Peel Regional Police. The Peel Regional Police had numerous officers under investigation by the RCMP while they were writing their portion of the report about the RCMP investigations into Pickton. We also understand this former VPD officer is writing questions for Commission counsel and has no training to be doing this type of work. 

Allegations of sexism and marginalization of witnesses: Former staff from the Commission have alleged sexist conduct, and conduct inconsistent with the intent for which the Inquiry was established, namely, to facilitate hearing the evidence of marginalized women. The Commission appears woefully out of touch with how it may be replicating the exact exclusion and discrimination that led to this Inquiry being called in the first place. 

Limited Witnesses: The arbitrary and unworkable timeframe has meant that the Commission has not and will not hear evidence from many important witnesses. Key witnesses requested by counsel for the families have not been added to the witness list more than four months after the request was made. The Commission has refused to hear evidence about possible connections between the Pickton brothers and Hell’s Angels, or to look into allegations of corruption and connections with organized crime. The purpose of the Inquiry is to get to the bottom of why police failed to stop the killings of vulnerable women. The question of whether women were prevented from coming forward to police with information about Pickton because they were intimidated by organized crime connections is highly relevant to this purpose and should be fully explored. Instead, this line of inquiry has been explicitly shut down by the Commissioner. 

Further to these concerns, the recent resignation of Robyn Gervais, the lawyer hired to represent “Aboriginal interests” at the Inquiry, has further reinforced our concerns. Ms. Gervais resigned her position citing the Commission’s unwillingness to give enough time and weight to evidence from Aboriginal witnesses. “Aboriginal interests have not, and will not, be adequately represented in these hearings,” she said. “Given that these hearings were about missing Aboriginal women, I didn't think I would need to fight to have their voices heard.” From the outset, we did not support the appointment of amici to represent community interests. Ms. Gervais’ resignation confirms our belief that this was a tokenistic appointment that could never have been expected to effectively represent the broad and essential perspectives of First Nations people. We are extremely troubled by the recent announcement regarding the hasty appointment, one month before the end of the hearings, of two new Independent Counsel to present issues related to Aboriginal interests. We emphasize that this will still not allow for the inclusion of critical Aboriginal voices - those voices required their own legal counsel in order to participate. 

On May 1, 2012, the Inquiry will shift into its Study Commission function and begin holding Policy Forums in which interested individuals and organizations can make submissions to the Commission on issues within the advisory and policy aspects of its mandate. Given the record of the Inquiry thus far, our organizations have no confidence that the insight or expertise we could now offer would make any difference to the Inquiry’s outcome or the strength of its recommendations. The government’s failure to commit the necessary resources to this Commission does not bode well for its commitment to implementing any of the Commission’s recommendations, and the Commission’s continued exclusion and marginalization of community voices undermines the credibility of the entire process. We see little value in spending our organizations’ extremely limited time and resources contributing to a process that is fundamentally flawed and irredeemably defective. 

Canada has been criticized by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and, just weeks ago, by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination because of the inadequacies in its law and practice respecting the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of violence against women, particularly Aboriginal women. The high levels of violence experienced by Aboriginal women, as well as the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across the country, are evidence of Canada’s failure to meet its international legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the fundamental human rights of women. To date, Canada has not made an effective response to these serious and significant findings by expert human rights bodies. 

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has initiated its inquiry procedure under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in response to information it has received regarding disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women and girls. Given the failures of the British Columbia and Canadian governments to address effectively the human rights crisis of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, including the social and economic conditions that make Aboriginal women and girls more vulnerable to violence in the first place, our organizations will dedicate what limited resources we can offer to working with the United Nations to facilitate their investigations and fact-finding processes, in order to ensure that Canada is held internationally accountable for these ongoing human rights violations. We have no confidence that the Commission of Inquiry can provide such accountability. 

In closing, we reiterate our disappointment in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which continues to lose relevance and credibility. Ensuring that the Commission proceeds with the maximum amount of evidence and input available is literally a matter of life and death for the marginalized women who continue to experience extremely dangerous situations on a daily basis in the Downtown Eastside and throughout the province, and we are extremely upset that the Commission has not chosen to implement measures to allow for this. We are angry that millions of dollars continue to be spent on the Inquiry, and yet the Province and Commissioner were not able to provide adequate funding for Community Group Participants to participate in an appropriate manner. Our organizations will continue to support the families of the missing women and will work together going forward to ensure that real change happens for the vulnerable women of the Downtown Eastside. 

Yours truly, 

Aboriginal Front Door Society 
Amnesty International Canada 
Atira Women’s Resource Society 
B.C. Civil Liberties Association 
Battered Women’s Support Services 
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council 
Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society 
Ending Violence Association of British Columbia 
Feb. 14th Women’s Memorial March Committee 
First Nations Summit 
PACE: Providing Alternatives Counselling & Education Society 
Pivot Legal Society 
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs 
Union Gospel Mission 
West Coast LEAF 

WISH Drop-in Centre Society 

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No More Silence aims to develop an inter/national network to support the work being done by activists, academics, researchers, agencies and communities to stop the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women.