MLA condemns tragedy, says violence not specific to his region or to indigenous women
Amnesty International Canada is wrapping up a human rights investigation in northeastern B.C. and the human rights group says it’s alarmed by violence against aboriginal women amidst industrial development in the region.
Investigators just wrapped up a fact finding mission in Fort St. John on Friday. Amnesty women’s rights campaigner Jacqueline Hansen — who is based in Ottawa — has been meeting with as many people as she can.
She says a local aboriginal woman first alerted Amnesty to a growing list of women from the region who’d been murdered or gone missing. It includes local woman Cynthia Maas, who was taken from the streets of Prince George and murdered by convicted serial killer Cody Legebokoff.
“For the size of the community and the length of the list … there’s something going on,” said Hansen. “We’re trying to understand the patterns that have led so many women to go missing or be murdered from this relatively small northern community.”
It may be difficult for Canadians to understand why Amnesty is focusing on a local community, Hansen acknowledged.
“The right to live free from violence is a core fundamental human right. Rights violations don’t just happen out there overseas. They’re happening in our backyard, and in northern British Columbia.”
Amnesty is especially concerned about violence against indigenous women during rapid industrial development in the region, Hansen said.
“What are the impacts of large scale natural resource developments of oil and gas, mines, Site C, LNG? We’re not just interested in how these projects affect plants and animals. We’re interested in how they affect people.”
Research already shows a link between the influx of transient work forces and higher levels of violence against women, according to Amnesty.
North Peace MLA Pat Pimm said he was not aware of Amnesty International’s investigation, but he welcomes their interest. However, he said the problem of missing and murdered women is not confined to his region, and is about all women, whether aboriginal or not.
Amnesty International Canada will make its research public in the spring of 2016, it said.
It’s the second time in recent years that international human rights groups have launched investigations in northern BC.
In 2012, Human Rights Watch investigators travelled northern B.C.’s so called “Highway of Tears” and released a report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Policing.