From the editor
// Samantha Thompson

It is the unfortunate and awkward truth that society does not treat those of First Nations descent, or those working in the sex industry, with the same level of priority or importance as a Caucasian person. In the case of the Missing Women Commission Inquiry, somebody screwed up. Someone did not prioritize finding these missing women and getting them home, safe and sound. The Highway of Tears, a stretch of highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert, has been the location where at least 18 women disappeared and were later found dead. None of the cases have been solved, and now, with these important voices missing from the proceedings, someone is again making an egregious error.

Since the 1990s, many women have been reported as missing, with relatively little action taken to resolve the problem. Between Jan. 23, 1997 and Feb. 5, 2002, a huge number of women were reported missing from the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. It was suggested that there was a serial killer active in the community, yet the complaints related to missing women were not taken seriously.

In many instances, the women reported missing were of First Nations background or were sex workers. On Jan. 27, 1998, the Criminal Justice Branch decided to enter a stay of proceedings on charges against Robert William Pickton of attempted murder, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement, and aggravated assault. However, in 2002, the police arrested Pickton and charged him with 27 degrees of first degree murder and six counts of second degree murder. Evidence at the trial suggested that Pickton may have murdered as many as 49 women overall – something that, it has been suggested, could have been avoided if the reports of missing women had been taken seriously in the first place.

Two weeks ago, we heard about the unfortunate situation of Kienan Hebert, who was taken from his house and went missing for two days. Instantly, an Amber Alert was put on, announced on media stations and buses. Although it is obviously a good thing that Hebert was brought back home later in the week, we must question why the widespread announcement of his disappearance was so much greater than that of any of the women who have gone missing along the Highway of Tears.

According to the Vancouver Sun, Skeena MLA Robin Austin said, in response to the news that Hebert had been found, “Wow, I guess the reason the Amber Alert worked and he’s back home safe is because he’s white.” According to Austin, many in the community still feel that saving the lives of young aboriginal women is not a priority.

Too often, public opinion in Canada suggests we are immune to inequality and unjust actions. Certainly these things occur, but who are we, really, to do anything about them? All of the 'isms' are swept under the rug, hidden from view to make it easier for us to forget about them.

Feminism, for example, is often heavily criticized for being too aggressive and “anti-male,” even though at its heart, feminism is simply calling for equality between men and women. Yet what we often forget, or choose to ignore, is that this equality has not been achieved by women who simply move out of kitchens and get jobs. All women count in this goal of equality, and that includes women of all racial backgrounds and professions, including those who are sex workers.

As active members of society, we are faced with information every single day. Our brains filter down that information according to our own biases, limiting what we accept as truth, or what even warrants our attention. On a larger scale, authorities do the same thing: they filter out all the things that they hear, and decide which are important enough for them to take action on – again, according to biases, perceived or otherwise. Often, these filters work in ways that result in immeasurably awful results.

The Missing Women Inquiry is the climax of what happened when the filtration system of what is important and what is not goes horribly wrong. As we study at university, it is important that we actively filter out the bullshit from actual truth.

Don’t take anything you hear as truth, until you’ve critically thought about it.

When we think passively, we set ourselves up for failure. We can’t sit back and accept the information that is thrown up all over us as truth. If we do, one by one we will each become royally screwed, and the rights of the members of our society will be continuously undermined by those placed in positions of authority.

// Samantha Thompson, editor-in-Chief

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