First Session, 42nd Parliament (2021)

Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act

Virtual Meeting

Friday, March 12, 2021

Issue No. 14

ISSN 2563-4372

The HTML transcript is provided for informational purposes only.
The PDF transcript remains the official digital version.



Doug Routley (Nanaimo–North Cowichan, BC NDP)

Deputy Chair:

Dan Davies (Peace River North, BC Liberal Party)


Garry Begg (Surrey-Guildford, BC NDP)

Rick Glumac (Port Moody–Coquitlam, BC NDP)

Trevor Halford (Surrey–White Rock, BC Liberal Party)

Karin Kirkpatrick (West Vancouver–Capilano, BC Liberal Party)

Grace Lore (Victoria–Beacon Hill, BC NDP)

Adam Olsen (Saanich North and the Islands, BC Green Party)

Harwinder Sandhu (Vernon-Monashee, BC NDP)

Rachna Singh (Surrey–Green Timbers, BC NDP)


Karan Riarh


Friday, March 12, 2021

9:00 a.m.

Virtual Meeting

Present: Doug Routley, MLA (Chair); Dan Davies, MLA (Deputy Chair); Garry Begg, MLA; Rick Glumac, MLA; Trevor Halford, MLA; Karin Kirkpatrick, MLA; Adam Olsen, MLA; Harwinder Sandhu, MLA; Rachna Singh, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Grace Lore, MLA
The Chair called the Committee to order at 9:03 a.m.
Pursuant to its terms of reference, the Committee continued its review of policing and related systemic issues.
The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:

Police Victim Services of British Columbia

• Ian P. Batey, Executive Director

• Anita Eilander, President, Board of Directors

Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

• Andrea Glickman, Board Member

Battered Women’s Support Services

• Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director

The Committee recessed from 10:43 a.m. to 10:47 a.m.
The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:

BC Society of Transition Houses

• Amy FitzGerald, Executive Director

Ending Violence Association of BC

• Tracy Porteous, Executive Director

The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 11:57 a.m.
Doug Routley, MLA
Karan Riarh
Clerk to the Committee

FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2021

The committee met at 9:03 a.m.

[D. Routley in the chair.]

D. Routley (Chair): Good morning, everyone. My name is Doug Routley. I’m the MLA for Nanaimo–North Cowichan and the Chair of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, an all-party committee of the Legislative Assembly.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that I’m joining today’s meeting from the traditional territories of the Malahat First Nation.

I would also like to welcome all those who are listening and participating to this meeting. Our committee is undertaking a broad consultation with respect to policing and public safety in B.C. We are taking a phased approach to this work and have been meeting with subject-matter experts, community advocacy organizations, Indigenous communities and others.

We also invite British Columbians to provide written, audio or video submissions. We will review those submissions with a view to inviting individuals and organizations to present to the committee at a later date. Further details on how to participate are available on our website at The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on Friday, April 30.

[9:05 a.m.]

For these meetings, the presenters have been organized into small panels. Today we’ll be discussing advocacy and support services. Each presenter has 15 minutes to speak, and we kindly ask presenters to be respectful of the time limit.

Following the presentations from the panel, there will be time for questions from committee members. At that time, I ask members to raise their hands to indicate they have a question, and we will keep a speaking list. I also ask that everyone please put themselves on mute and wait until you are recognized before speaking.

All audio from our meetings is broadcast live and on our website, and a complete transcript will be posted.

For their introductions now, I’d like to introduce the members of the committee.

K. Kirkpatrick: I’d like to acknowledge that I’m on the traditional lands of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam First Nations.

My name is Karin Kirkpatrick. I’m the MLA for West Vancouver–Capilano. I’m looking forward to hearing from you all today.

A. Olsen: Good morning. Adam Olsen, coming to you from beautiful W̱JOȽEȽP in the W̱SÁNEĆ territory.

I’m the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.

R. Singh: Good morning.

I’m joining you from the Coast Salish territories of the Kwantlen, Katzie and Semiahmoo First Nations.

I’m the MLA for Surrey–Green Timbers.

D. Davies (Deputy Chair): Good morning, everyone. I’m Dan Davies, the MLA for Peace River North.

I live in Fort St. John, but I’m coming to you today from Victoria, the territory of the Lək̓ʷəŋin̓əŋ peoples. Welcome.

G. Begg: Good morning, everyone.

I’m joining you today from the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, including the Kwantlen, Katzie and Semiahmoo First Nations.

I am the MLA for Surrey-Guildford.

H. Sandhu: Good morning, everyone. I am Harwinder Sandhu, the MLA for Vernon-Monashee.

Today I’m joining you from Victoria. It’s the unceded and traditional territory of the Lək̓ʷəŋin̓əŋ-speaking First Nations.

R. Glumac: I’m Rick Glumac.

I’m joining you from the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people.

I’m the MLA for Port Moody–Coquitlam.

D. Routley (Chair): Thanks, all of you.

Assisting the committee today are Karan Riarh from the Parliamentary Committees Office and Billy Young from Hansard Services.

I’d now like to introduce our guests. Our first panel is consisting of Police Victim Services of British Columbia represented by Ian P. Batey, the executive director, and Anita Eilander, president, board of directors.

After that, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre represented by Andrea Glickman, a board member, and Battered Women’s Support Services — Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director. We’ll have questions from committee members at 9:45.

I would ask, then, for Mr. Batey and Miss Eilander to present.

Presentations on Police Act


I. Batey: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good morning to the members of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act.

It is our pleasure to appear before you this morning, and we look forward to engaging you with our presentation, as well as with the Q-and-A session. My name is Ian Batey. I am the executive director of Police Victim Services of British Columbia.

Prior to starting our presentation, we would like to acknowledge, with respect, the Lək̓ʷəŋin̓əŋ peoples, on whose traditional territory our office stands, and specifically where we are in Greater Victoria — the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ people. On the latter, because our office is actually on the Saanich Peninsula, I would also like to extend an acknowledgment to the Tsartlip, Tseycum, Tsawout and Pauquachin First Nations, whose historic relationships to the land continue to this day.

[9:10 a.m.]

In addition, PVSBC also wishes to recognize the Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous communities who inhabit and enrich these lands.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to our board president, Ms. Anita Eilander. Anita and I will be co-presenting this morning. Anita is an accomplished police victim services professional joining us from Vernon, actually, where she is the manager of Vernon–North Okanagan RCMP victim services.

Over to Anita.

A. Eilander: Thank you for your introduction, Ian.

Good morning, members of the special committee. I hope you can hear me okay.

I would like to acknowledge that I’m coming to you today from the northern part of the unceded Okanagan First Nation territory and that many descendants of the Suqnaqinx still live here today.

As a civilian professional with police-based victim services, I will refer to us as “police-based” throughout the rest of my presentation — or I’ll try to, anyway — because “police-based victim services” is a mouthful.

I would like to begin our presentation by telling you a story, using a local example about what our service is all about — the intensity of the function, what it means to work as a professional in this sector and, in victims’ own words, how essential and critical the services are to the survival and well-being of the thousands of victims of crime and other traumatic situations occurring daily throughout our province. I will change some of the details of this story to protect the anonymity of this file. I would like to add that the supports we provided on this file would look very similar to any police-based program in the province.

My office provided crisis support to three victims of a rural North Okanagan aggravated assault file a few years ago. The offender attempted to break into a residence using a machete, threatening to kill family members and causing extreme fear to the victims on this file.

The victims hid while the offender continued to search for them and destroy property, until police arrived. As the victims were hiding from the offender during the assault, they were separated from each other and did not know if the others were okay during the commission of this offense. The victims feared for their lives. The offender was arrested on scene, which saved time during the criminal justice process, as the police were able to identify the person responsible for the offense.

My staff were referred the file by police, and we pro­vided crisis response and significant continued emotional support before and throughout the criminal justice process. My staff liaised regularly with police regarding the status of the investigation and then provided regular updates to the victims. We provided court update information to all three victims on this file, explaining what each court appearance meant and walking them through the complexities of the criminal justice process and providing emotional support along the way.

The offender pled guilty and was sentenced to time in jail, with a reporting requirement upon his release. My staff continued to provide support while the offender was in jail. They continued to fear for their safety upon their release. We assisted with safety planning and updated the plan as the situation evolved.

The offender breached their conditions the day of their release. We are still providing support today, as the offender continues to reoffend. The victims share that they do not feel like the criminal justice system served them, because they continue to breach and reoffend, and they do not feel safe.

One of the victims on this file, who expressed their ap­preciation for the support my staff offered, said: “I would not have been able to go through this process without your support. I did not know where to start to create a workable safety plan. Being able to talk about what happened and how scared I was helped take the shame away and normalize my feelings and made all the difference to my recovery. Your continued support grounded me, and I didn’t feel so alone, knowing someone cares.”

By providing ongoing support to the victims on this or any file, we assist in reducing the traumatic impacts of crime and trauma on victims, witnesses, friends and the community.

Back over to you, Ian.

[9:15 a.m.]

I. Batey: Thank you, Anita. I very much appreciate the story.

Just in terms of the order for the committee, we have prepared for you — and, we understand, has been provided to do — a PowerPoint deck. We will be walking through this deck, and we’ll let you know the pages as we move to them throughout the process. Thank you.

Okay. We’re moving on to, basically, slide 2. I’m not going to read our mission or vision statements, but just want to let you know that our goal as an organization is to empower and advocate for our member programs so that they are in the best position possible to ensure all victims of crime and trauma receive the utmost in compassionate, professional and consistent services.

I’m now going to move to slide 3, which is the slide where we’ll provide a little bit of background information in regard to the organization specifically.

PVS has been representing the police-based victim services sector since 1985, when we were created as a B.C. society with full charitable status. Our role is to provide services to our 95-member organizations and individuals through advocacy; representations, such as appearing before you today; and lobbying for members’ interests as guided by the B.C. Lobbyists Transparency Act. In addition, we provide a broad range of services related to education, professional development and support for our members and also to our partners and stakeholders.

PVSBC is a provincewide member organization, and as such, we regularly collaborate with a wide range of partner and stakeholder organizations who are also in the business of providing a range of support services to members of the general public as well as to victims. Not an extensive list, but those that we work most actively with include the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, the Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police, as well as the B.C. Society of Transition Houses, the Association of B.C. Police Boards and also the Federation of Community Social Services.

Moving on to slide 4, we are now switching gears very clearly to talk about the actual sector itself. To try and put this into context, on slide 4 is information in regard to some high-level financial, human resource and workload indicators of the sector.

Financially, the investment in police-based victim services by the province, and also by local governments, is in excess of $8.1 million currently. Regarding staffing, there are over 275 front-line workers that utilize 2,567 weekly contracted service hours that are funded directly by the province. On an annual basis, the amount of paid hours is in the range of 115,000. Just a note: this does not include the number of hours that are funded by local governments.

Regarding caseloads, there were over 50,000 clients that were provided police-based victim services in 2020. Our data shows that approximately 18,205 of those were actually new clients. Data also indicates that, of that overall number of cases, over 11 percent of those cases were related to assault, abuse and/or partner situations. This is a trend that we are noticing, as well, as a result of the implications of COVID.

I’d like to move on to page 5. Just some basic information in regard to our connection to the provincial government and also where our authority flows from. Police-based victim services across the province are delivered on a contractual basis through the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, specifically, the community safety and crime prevention division.

Now, this is a separate division from the police and security division which presented to you on the 29th of January and also on the tenth of February. The authority for providing victim services flows from the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the B.C. Victims of Crime Act, as well as the B.C. Crime Victim Assistance Act.

[9:20 a.m.]

We wish to draw to your attention that police-based victim services is not currently included in the current Police Act. We consider this to be an omission, and we will advocate that this needs to be remedied, as you will see in our recommendations.

I’m going to switch back to Anita so she can provide you with a quick overview of where we are in the province.

A. Eilander: Thank you, Ian.

We are now moving on to slide 6, which is the map slide. We’re now going to start drilling down on the particulars about the police-based victim services sector.

As you can see from the map, the sector is embedded in either municipal or RCMP locations in virtually every city, town and village across the province. Local police-based victim services workers have an integral partnership with police in providing a wide range of services to victims in the immediate aftermath of a crime or other serious incident when trauma initially starts and, in many cases, continues for lengthy periods of time.

I am pleased to indicate that each committee member has a solid police-based victim services organization in your local community.

I. Batey: Thanks, Anita.

I’m just going to very quickly talk about the diagram that is on slide No. 7. This is our partner and stakeholder diagram.

To function effectively on the front line, all police-based victim services programs have a well-developed network of partner and stakeholder agencies that they both work with and support, mainly within the public safety, medical communities and community service disciplines. Depending on the specific case, the sector works with many, if not all, of these organizations, which are integral to ensuring that victims receive timely, compassionate and essential ongoing service so that they can effectively navigate all parts of their journey to recovery, hope and certainty.

I’m passing back to Anita now to run through the functions of police-based victim services.

A. Eilander: Okay. We are now on slide 8 in your package — a little bit of background on the critical incident response.

Victim services staff are called by police to attend the scenes of many types of traumatic situations. They may include scenes such as homicides, homicide-suicide files, next-of-kin notifications, suicide files, domestic or sexual assaults, fatal motor vehicle or boating accidents, missing-person files, assaults, drug overdoses, child deaths, etc. The police’s role is investigational, and our role is to ensure that victims are supported and have access to information. We walk alongside a victim as they go through the trauma process, providing trauma-informed support as long as needed.

How victims cope largely depends on their experience immediately following the traumatic incident. Timely connection to victim services has a more positive impact on the healing outcomes of victims. There is an integral partnership between police-based and police. Police referral to victim services in the immediate aftermath of a crime, providing victims with the information about their rights to information, protection, participation and restitution in the criminal justice system, can make an enormous difference to victims’ collision with the criminal justice system.

Unsupported victims are less likely to come forward. When victims are not treated as full partners in the criminal justice system, the system is less effective. Staying connected with victims from when the crime occurred to and through the criminal justice process is so important for the chance of a successful court outcome and, maybe even more importantly, the survivability through the system and resilience created moving past the case. “Not only do these actions provide for better healing and recovery outcomes for victims; they also carry a strong message of social solidarity.” This last comment was a quote taken from the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights progress report.

[9:25 a.m.]

Police-based staff provide invaluable, inclusive, confidential, unbiased and respectful support and advocacy for crime victims in so many ways. Example: helping victims understand their rights, offering information, support and guidance through the criminal justice system. Victim services staff also help prepare victims for court appearances and provide emotional support and understanding of criminal justice processes. We may also continue to pro­vide support long after a trial process, as we provide support through parole board or review board hearings. We may provide support for many years after a crime has occurred.

Now moving on to slide 10. Police-based have a strong, collaborative relationship with many community and partner agencies, as reflected in slide 7. We are keen members on leadership teams and committees to provide subject-matter expertise in the areas of, for example, sexual and domestic violence, threat assessment and management, developing and implementing best practices, education and community awareness and prevention strategies.

We regularly provide public education and awareness in community regarding victim issues. Although we primarily support victims through the criminal justice system, there is often overlap with family court proceedings. Court processes can be a time of increased risk; therefore, safety planning during this time is extremely important. We may also provide emotional support during family court proceedings and refer to resources such as legal aid, duty counsel or family justice counsellors. We also assist to explain protection orders and assist our clients, or victims, in obtaining copies of existing protection orders.

Now moving on to slide 11. Safety planning may be provided for a number of reasons. They may be provided for files such as home invasion files, break and enters, neighbour disputes, homicide files, domestic violence, criminal harassment or any situation where someone does not feel safe at home or in community or has fear of another person. We liaise with police regularly to ensure that safety plans are current and effective. We play a key role in creating safety plans, and we work closely with police on files that are classified as highest risk. We also facilitate home security checks, if required.

Moving on to slide 12, this is talking about our recommendations. On behalf of our board of directors, our members and, most importantly, all people in our communities in B.C. who have been victimized by crime and similar events and whose lives are now traumatized, we make the following recommendations to you in your efforts to revise the British Columbia Police Act into a modern, inclusive and solution-oriented road map.

We recommend, No. 1, to prioritize police-based victim services into the Police Act as a specialized, proactive service embedded in centralized police detachments and departments. This must include police-based victim services and its workers being included as defined terms within legislation. Number 2 is embedding victim rights and key solutions consistent with the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and the B.C. Victims of Crime Act within the spectrum of policing functions in the Police Act.

In closing, without police-based victim services being added to the Police Act, we believe that victims’ rights will never be fully recognized. We provide invaluable assistance and advocacy. We are an essential service and a critical part of the continuum of policing services and the criminal justice system. We believe that adding police-based victim services to the Police Act is required to ensure that the legal rights of victims are respected.

[9:30 a.m.]

Connection to police-based victim services at the onset of a crime or traumatic event has a positive impact on recovery and resiliency. Adding police-based victim services to the Police Act is taking a firm stand to say that victims matter. By formally adding victims into the act, it puts the marginalized and underserved back into the room. The more victims can be recognized, the more my colleagues and myself can do our jobs. Victims must not be an afterthought.

I. Batey: Thank you, Anita.

Mr. Chair, this concludes our presentation. Our apologies. We ran, I see, about four minutes over. We look forward to listening to and engaging the committee. Our thanks for being able to participate.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you. We will extend the time for our next presenters so that they get their 15 minutes — the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, represented by Andrea Glickman, a board member.

Andrea, could you take over?


A. Glickman: Yes, good morning. Thank you so much. My name is Andrea Glickman, and it is my honour and privilege to be speaking to you today on behalf of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in my capacity as board member. My diasporic ancestors are Guyanese, Portuguese, Indian and eastern European Jewish, and I am an uninvited and first-generation settler on Turtle Island.

I would like to acknowledge the members of the committee today and also my fellow presenters. I’ll begin with a territorial acknowledgment.

We are extremely and forever grateful to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations for hosting the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre shelter and drop-in centres in their unceded, unsurrendered and ancestral territories and for continuing to generously support the women who use DEWC.

I’m joining you today from the unceded, unsurrendered and ancestral territories of the shíshálh Nation, and I’m very humble to carry out this business on their land.

DEWC produced a seminal submission to the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls which was called Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and which explores how individual experiences of violence are inseparable from state violence, including loss of land, forced poverty, homelessness, child apprehension, criminalization within the justice system and health disparities. Indigenous women comprise 70 percent of the women accessing DEWC.

We therefore stand with Indigenous peoples whose territories comprise what is now known as British Columbia, and we fully support restitution and having their stolen land given back as part of the critical work that must be done to fully end violence against Indigenous women and girls.

The women’s centre began in 1978. The mission of DEWC is to provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for women from all walks of life who live and/or work in the Downtown Eastside. To achieve this goal, we provide supportive surroundings with meals, counselling, advocacy and programs which nurture and empower our members, including shelter beds.

Our community also works towards increasing awareness of systemic injustice and inequalities that contribute to women’s vulnerability. One of our goals is to bring awareness of poverty and violence issues to the general public and to government. Women have been victimized and have not had their safety needs met, and measures must be taken to close that gap.

Your committee is intended to consider reforms related to the modernization and sustainability of policing under the Police Act; the role of police with respect to complex social issues, including mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction; the scope of systemic racism within B.C.’s police agencies; and whether there are measures necessary to ensure a modernized Police Act is consistent with the U.N. declaration.

DEWC’s interest in policing goes back more than 30 years of dealing with police and reporting missing women to the VPD. Our focus on the safety and security of women, particularly Indigenous, Black and women of colour, who are disproportionately impacted by the police and comprise the majority of DEWC’s members, has driven us to put together this presentation.

To put it plainly, women are vulnerable to violence in many forms, and the women who use DEWC are often at heightened risk of violence based on many intersecting factors, including identity, poverty, health issues and occupation. The rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people are disturbingly high and represent one of the most critical, glaring and ongoing human rights issues in Canada and in British Columbia.

Many women who use DEWC and many women in the Downtown Eastside are over-policed, putting them into further risk of violence and harm by then needing to carry out their daily activities in riskier and more isolated spaces.

As detailed in the Oppal Inquiry into and in the final report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, the VPD failed to prevent and protect Indigenous women from violence and failed to diligently investigate violence when it occurred.

[9:35 a.m.]

Again, DEWC directly experiences absolute failure in policing through decades of reporting missing women to the police and not seeing action or support. While the Oppal Inquiry had poor scope and leadership, it did confirm that the police did not listen to women in the Downtown Eastside, and it was a blatant failure of duty. It concluded almost ten years ago, and there has been no review to determine if all the issues have been addressed.

The Police Act is legislation empowering individuals working for the state to carry weapons that can kill, injure, restrain, arrest, interrogate and stop women. So we are extremely interested in contributing to this review and revision of the Police Act. We’re not a well-resourced organization, and our capacity is focused entirely on providing front-line service to women and children.

To be honest, we expect our input to be taken seriously, and we expect to see our recommendations implemented, because the lives of the women who use DEWC are literally at stake. The gruesome murder of a Coast Salish mother in 1992 catalyzed the annual Women’s Memorial March, which continues years later, to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and all women’s lives lost in the Downtown Eastside.

Many homicides and disappearances are still unresolved, including the recent murders and disappearances of DEWC members Lisa Arlene Francis, Angeline Pete, Ashley Machiskinic, and Verna Simmard. We also want to note Chelsea Poorman, who is missing — currently there are vigils being organized; and Tonya Hyer, who was murdered more recently.

The recommendations we will make centre on the enhanced safety of women and children, accountability of police, addressing and ending systemic racism through legislative tools, a legislated review system to audit police funding and commit to reduce funding for police to address issues that would be better addressed by professionals trained in mental health and in harm reduction.

Our first recommendation is that the legislation must specifically be revised to explicitly keep women and children safe. We categorically object to the police killing anyone, including women and children. Chantel Moore, a much-loved Tla-o-qui-aht mother, daughter and granddaughter was killed last year by the RCMP in Edmundston, New Brunswick, when she called 911 and they came for a wellness check. Every legislative tool must be used to ensure that the state-sanctioned murder or abuse of women and children is not permitted. It has been suggested that health officials accompany or replace police on health checks.

Two, include legislative provisions to address and prohibit systemic racism in the police system, including a complete, absolute end to police stops and street checks. We know that women of colour — particularly, Indigenous and Black women — face higher rates of incarceration and police stops. We need collection of race-based data and funding to fully assess and address systemic racism within the policing system in B.C., perhaps in concert with the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner.

Additionally, the Police Act must be reformed so that it is categorically clear that racism is not permitted. We call for creation of a provision that would make reporting racism by police officers mandatory and would include clear consequences, because systemic racism can lead to harm to women and even to death. It is not something that can be addressed through cultural competency training. As Theresa Gray says in Red Women Rising: “The police should be held…responsible for not taking violence against women seriously and for not doing their job.”

Recommendation 3 is that the special committee should read Red Women Rising in its entirety, in order to understand the context of Indigenous women survivors in the Downtown Eastside and should incorporate all recommendations, particularly recommendations with respect to policing. On April 3, DEWC released Red Women Rising, based on lived experience, leadership and expertise of Indigenous survivors.

This comprehensive report is the culmination of a participatory process with 113 Indigenous women and 15 non-Indigenous women regarding the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The report was co-authored by Carol Martin and Harsha Walia. The stories are organized thematically, and there is a specific section on policing, prisons and the justice system.

The following contributors to Red Women Rising have died from the violence of poverty, the violence of addiction and inadequate medical services in the past year. These include Corinne Demas, known as CD, Sandra Maria Sonya Czechaczek, Sophie Merasty, Stella August, Beatrice Starr, Audrey Hill, Melinda Meltingtallow and Karen Boyd.

I’m going to highlight some of the key recommendations from Red Women Rising, in an attempt to bring forward the voices of the women themselves, who use the centre.

We recommend that administrative, disciplinary or criminal measures be available to hold officials accountable when officers are found to have failed to act on reports of missing women or have carried out biased or inadequate investigations of violence against Indigenous women. This should contain the responsibility of housing organizations and police to act on their safety protocols in relation to missing women.

[9:40 a.m.]

Communications between police, family and housing organizations should be transparent and coordinated. We call for a review and a repair of police policies and procedures that are conducive to violence against Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people. We recommend providing Indigenous women, their families and community advocates with an available and effective procedure to file complaints in the case of non-compliance or negligence by officials and information on how to initiate and pursue that procedure.

We call for the prohibition of police from carrying and using all lethal weapons. That’s no guns. Even in the most escalated scenario, there is no justification for a police-involved lethal shooting.

We call for the legislation of the elimination of the use of police restraint devices, such as the hobble restraint device, and the use of police dogs as weapons.

We demand the elimination of searches and monitoring of Indigenous women and girls by male police officers and of all women and girls.

All police forces must be mandated to implement sex work enforcement guidelines, similar to those in Vancouver, that support the safety of sex workers in police interactions.

In reforming the Police Act, we call on the province to make it easier to file a police complaint and to establish an independent civilian watchdog that conducts investigations of reported incidents of serious police misconduct, including allegations of police violence and sexual assault. You must increase the liability for the misconduct of police officers to include criminal charges.

We call to allow the provincial Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to initiate its own systemic investigations or hearings and to shift investigations of misconduct, within the jurisdiction of the Police Complaint Commissioner, to investigations directly by the commissioner.

We also call for the implementation of existing recommendations by Human Rights Watch in their report Those Who Take Us Away, as well as recommendations by the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission from their report Justice Reform for B.C.

Our fourth recommendation is that the special committee should review the “Calls for Justice” in their entirety and implement the calls that are related to policing and to women’s safety in revising the Police Act. I’d like to note that the commissioners themselves note that their recommendations are legal imperatives. They’re not optional.

Key recommendations include police training, education, transparency and accountability — and doing so in partnership with Indigenous Peoples; and the creation of a national task force, with provincial participation, to open up and investigate all 193 unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Recommendation 5 is…. I only have six. We call for a thorough and systematic review of police financing and budgets and a reallocation of non-police-related work.

The Police Act must include a legislated review system to audit police funding on a regular basis and must commit to continually reducing funding for police to address issues that would be better addressed by professionals trained in areas such as mental health and harm reduction. This must be built into any reform.

Money that is currently spent on police delivering services they are not trained to deliver would be better spent providing housing and food and other critical community needs that are severely underfunded and which, in their absence, increase the likelihood of engagement with police.

Recommendation 6 is, per the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, that the province must ensure that any revised Police Act is aligned with the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 22 of the declaration states that “particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of Indigenous Elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of the declaration” and that “states shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”

We call for an independent, gender-based and Indigenous analysis of the Police Act in any proposed changes to the Police Act. Indigenous women must be involved in this analysis.

First Nations, as the proper title and rights holders, must have the opportunity to review a consultation draft of the draft bill prior to introduction, and they must be given the powers to recommend any changes. Full alignment, per the declaration act, must be done in partnership with First Nations.

In closing, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre is a unique and special place because of the women who use it and direct it. I would like to conclude by acknowledging the strength, brilliance and vibrancy of all the women at DEWC and to thank the women at DEWC for giving me the opportunity to bring forward the voices of the women today.

I also want to thank our executive director, Alice Kendall, and all the staff who work so hard every single day, at the direction of DEWC members, to create much-needed safe spaces for women in the Downtown Eastside.

[9:45 a.m.]

It is our collective responsibility to do everything that we can to keep women and children safe. It is our hope that you will centre this responsibility as you reform the Police Act.

We call on the police to find our missing women and solve their murders.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you.

Our next presenter is from the Battered Women’s Support Services — Angela Marie MacDougall. She is the executive director.

Please go ahead, Angela.


A. MacDougall: Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the committee. My name is Angela Marie MacDougall, and I’m the executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services.

It’s an honour to join you here today in these unceded and unsurrendered ancestral territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam people.

I have been in the role of executive director for 18 years, and I’m here to talk about the work of Battered Women’s Support Services, the work that Battered Women’s Support Services has been part of in police reform and also to talk about some recommendations that we would like to see that the committee would consider seriously.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge all of the thousands of women that have accessed our services over the 43 years that we’ve been in existence as an organization, which was created in 1979 with the purposes of ending gender-based violence. We’ve been providing front-line work through a number of different services: crisis line, counselling services, victim services, specialized support for women that are Indigenous, Black, Latin American. We have a legal advocacy program that works to support women as they navigate different areas of the law and where the law interfaces with gender-based violence.

As one of 60 community-based victim service programs in British Columbia throughout the province, Battered Women’s Support Services is one of the first. We have a long history of examining the relationship of gender-based violence and the law and, in particular, the ways in which police interface with women that are dealing with gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexualized violence, criminal harassment and sexual harassment.

Our work in law reform and in police reform specifically has spanned over 30 years and began with the very beginning of the creation of the victim service program, the community-based victim service programs within British Columbia, and continued with the work around the development of the violence against women in relationships policy, which guides police response to domestic violence when arriving at the scene, as well as sexualized violence police policies.

We have continued that work through the creation of Canada’s very first domestic violence unit, which was created in the 1990s, that continues to operate within the Vancouver police department. We have been part of the development and informing the training — both the online training formats that exist in present day — and we were part of the creation of the primary aggressor policy. The language in the policy comes directly from the writings of Janet Freeman, who was our legal advocate. That language comes from a document that she wrote while our legal advocate, called “The Myth of Mutual Battering.”

We have worked quite a long time with transit police and looking at sexualized violence and sexual offending on public transportation. As well, we were a part of the creation of a community committee called SisterWatch that was developed in collaboration with community members within the Downtown Eastside and with the Vancouver police department after the killing and suspicious death of Ashley Machiskinic, who my beloved colleague, Andrea Glickman, representing Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, has referenced already today.

We are very much a part of addressing…. We’ve been working with police to look at their response and also the various policies but also around training. We’ve been part of consultation and implementation of cultural safety training within policing within British Columbia.

Our work began to take a more focused effort in looking at the ways in which police have been responding to, specifically, gender-based violence and domestic violence within British Columbia. We began to notice how police began to use the policies, which we’d worked so hard to develop, to disadvantage women. We began to see about 14 years ago the increases of women who have been wrongfully arrested by the police for allegedly perpetrating domestic violence.

[9:50 a.m.]

We began, then, a process of filing police complaints, both with municipal police as well as RCMP, as we became very concerned that police were then interpreting policies that were designed for women’s and children’s safety now to the detriment of women. What we began to notice anecdotally, and we’re currently now in the process of evaluating through creating research on this, is that those women that were wrongfully arrested by the police were disproportionately Black, Indigenous and women of colour or immigrant women whose first language was not English and that they spoke with an accent and perhaps…. We began to look at the relationship to how race was informing police response when arriving at domestic violence situations.

We’re also, at this point, very attuned to what is a troubling reality around police involved in domestic violence. We’ve had some high-profile cases here, within Vancouver and within Abbotsford, but also in other regions of British Columbia, where members of law enforcement have come to the attention of the criminal system through domestic violence with their female partners, who may or may not also be members of law enforcement.

Our work, today, then, is to examine…. We’re really examining how we’ve spent considerable time in working around police reform, in a number of different ways, and evaluating the extent to which that has been effective. We’re noticing some very concerning shifts — in part, I think, due to policing but also in the context of some other larger issues, which are how policing interfaces with changes in legislation, such as the R. v. Jordan decision that came, I believe, in 2016, within the Supreme Court of Canada.

What we are noticing, unfortunately, is that though we have been, at various times, encouraged by changes — police reform and various kinds of policies that we’ve been able to see and how that, then, becomes deployed — we continue to see, increasingly so, troubling responses by police when they arrive at domestic violence circumstances, where they tend to not follow the very policies that have been created and that are designed to guide them to perform proper investigations.

We believe that this in part due to long-standing and troubling challenges within policing — about the organizational culture of police and the struggle that patrol officers have to be able to perform their duties based on their own interpretation of violence against women and gender-based violence. What that means, in thinking about reform, is the challenge that we have in creating words to describe what is effective policing when a lot of the challenges remain within the culture of policing itself. These are well established.

They’ve been reported in some very considerable reports that have looked at sexualized violence within the RCMP against their own members, as well as what my colleague Andrea Glickman referred to — long-standing and troubling, problematic policing in looking at the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous women, specifically, as well as sex workers within Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the relationship to the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous women through what we understand as the Highway of Tears and through the north coast of north­west British Columbia.

These problems have been evaluated, in part, through the Wally Oppal Commission of Inquiry on missing and murdered women within British Columbia and Canada’s national inquiry on disappearances and killings of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. There are recommendations that have been drawn on police reform, with respect to missing people and with cultural issues within policing, through both of those reports — combined with Red Women Rising, which has a number of very key and vital recommendations that I would recommend that the special committee review.

Any process around reforming police would then need to evaluate to what extent the recommendations that have already been tabled have made their way through the system to this point. It is difficult, of course, after many years of providing insights into policing and reform to see some of the ongoing challenges in what remains to be within the cultural framework of policing.

[9:55 a.m.]

We would agree with and echo our colleagues at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre around incorporating practices that would then hold individual police accountable for their lack of following the policies that currently exist. That’s with respect to disappearances and the deaths of women, but it’s also with respect to sexualized violence and domestic violence. If we had more time today, I would be able to share with you the hundreds of ways in which we’ve seen police not follow the very policies designed for them to follow and that would be [audio interrupted] to ensure the protection of women and children that are experiencing [audio interrupted].

A very difficult piece of work that our team ends up having to do, at Battered Women’s Support Services, as well as our colleagues around the province — because we have these conversations on our provincial calls — is how much time is spent holding police accountable for their policies. It requires considerable follow-up in tracking individual police officers down, finding out what inhibited them from following their policy and then holding them accountable, through various kinds of advocacy, for ensuring that victims then have police follow through on what they’re designed to do. This is a troubling piece.

What we recommend is that there be a comprehensive review of policing domestic violence and sexualized violence, specifically, within British Columbia. This review would be the opportunity for front-line workers to provide anonymous feedback to a special committee that would be able to evaluate the effectiveness of policing around domestic violence and sexual violence. This is very important because [audio interrupted] we make an assumption about the effectiveness and the role of policing.

We know that the vast majority of victims are not contacting the police, for a number of different reasons. The estimates are that 25 percent are involving the police, but I think it’s actually much lower than that. This is something that I think is really important: that we begin to understand those survivors’ behaviour. If they’re not contacting police, where are they getting support? How are they becoming safer within their communities? To evaluate that — I think that’s a very vital piece in thinking about police reform at this time. We really recommend that the special committee seriously consider that and embark on that process.

We definitely want to encourage and create more effective complaint processes. Part of our team’s work is to file police complaints in, unfortunately, a large number of cases, where women are wrongfully arrested or where there is dual arrest, which is actually prohibited within the violence against women in relationships policy. We are a very small organization, based here in Vancouver, and we certainly don’t have the resources to follow up and file the number of complaints that we need to file in order to ensure that women victims receive a measure of justice and that we are able to hold police accountable for the very policies they have that are designed to guide their behaviour.

We find that the complaint process ends up being effective in that we do have a result. We wish that we did not have to use our very limited and valuable energy in order to do that work. A considerable amount of time of our victim services workers is following up on police to ensure that they are actually performing their duties in all the aspects around the investigation.

We echo our colleagues in the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre about a recommendation to ensuring that the sex work enforcement guidelines, established both in Metro Vancouver and within British Columbia, become part of policing. There is lots of evidence to show that that is a very important aspect of ensuring safety of those that are involved in sex work.

The vital part around looking at police budgets right now is another recommendation that we have. We know that community-based services are a vital part of ensuring women’s safety and victims’ safety within British Columbia. We are always completely and thoroughly underfunded and under-resourced for the amount of violence that we are seeing, both in families and around sexualized violence.

[10:00 a.m.]

The work that community-based organizations and community-based victim service workers do within the province of British Columbia is unparalleled in its ability to work outside of the policing system and in helping women be safer, both in collaboration with transition houses and with other community resources. This is something that I think is really important to review. I think we make some assumptions about how much work is done with police when the vast majority is not, and that work is vital and very important.

We have, of course, a desire to see the special committee build in a more robust analysis of race. That’s because we know, all across the province, that Indigenous women, Black women, immigrant women of colour, particularly women of colour whose first language is not English get an [audio interrupted].

This goes beyond sometimes what we think we can see within the training — that patrol officers around the province have a difficult time in assessing women’s safety when it comes to those particular groups of women. We think that has a lot to do with biases that draw on some of the racist underpinnings that are within Canada. That is a very troubling reality for all too many women, and it increases women’s inability to have safe options within their experiences of domestic and sexual violence.

Finally, we do concur that the use of firearms is, and particularly what we have seen…. We’ve had some egregious cases. The cases that our colleagues at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre have highlighted we are aware of. There are cases that don’t make the news, and those are cases of victims where police have then mischaracterized women’s behaviour in terms of self-defence and drawn their weapons. Here we have a victim of domestic violence now dealing with a police officer with a drawn weapon. When we work through that to evaluate that, we learn that it was uncalled for and unnecessary and an overreaction to the circumstance.

I will submit our comments in writing to the committee, and I thank you for this time today.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you, and thanks to all our presenters.

To the members of the committee, we will take a list for questions.

K. Kirkpatrick: I’ll take the lead here. Thank you so much to all of the presenters for that really compelling…. There was a lot of information there, so the ability for us to read and be able to absorb this more is going to be very helpful. I’ve got a couple of questions. I’m going to start with Police Victim Services. I’ll just ask one and then see…. I don’t want to take all the time here.

Anita and Ian, first off, victim services — I just want to say how extraordinary it is. I was with an organization, and we had an integrated victim services program that did all kinds of things. One of the big benefits, also, is the ability to support a victim to the justice system to come to an end point where you actually can get a conviction. I know that without that support through that process, you often come to that place in court where you have no witnesses, and then you have an offender who continues to offend. It’s extraordinary work.

Are you almost like a membership organization? I was trying to kind of understand. Across British Columbia, there are a number of social services organizations that run DVU programs and integrated victim support programs. Are they part of the work that you do, as opposed to you as an organization having your own teams in all of those locations?

I. Batey: Thank you very much for the question, MLA Kirkpatrick, and also for the comments about your own experience in working on police-based victim services.

The organization that we bring to you today actually is twofold. PVSBC is the umbrella-based organization. We are a bit like, although working in a very different sector, EVA B.C. or B.C. Society of Transition Houses, which have operating organizations and agencies in their membership.

[10:05 a.m.]

We have 95 organizations that are independently funded from the province and that operate under a contractual relationship from the province with a series of deliverables, those that Anita briefly walked you through in regards to the services that are provided.

At the local level…. I think Anita spoke to this a little bit. Because of the integrated nature of providing services to all forms of victims, our focus is predominately victims who unfortunately start as a result of a situation involving or that could ultimately end up in the criminal justice system or whatever, and that’s part of the reason why we are embedded to the extent that we are in all 95 of those locations.

However, a big piece of the work includes partnerships and stakeholder relationships with a number of organizations at the local level. For example, our members often participate in the ICAT process, for sake of argument, or other key local service delivery pieces.

I’m just going to pass over to Anita. She likely will have some specific comments about what those integrations look like at the local level.

A. Eilander: We are a police-based organization, so our offices are located within police detachments. That is certainly different than a community-based program.

However, we do work very collaboratively together with local agencies on, as Ian referred to, the interagency case assessment teams for highest risk domestic files and on the Violence Against Women In Relationships Committee and many others — suicide prevention steering committees, restorative justice committees and a number of others I can’t think of off the top of my head.

We do come from a different perspective because we are embedded in police detachments. However, we do work together to provide the best service possible for a victim. Our focus is, yes, primarily on any traumatic incident. It doesn’t have to be crime-related. Suicide is not a crime. A sudden death is not a crime. Mental health challenges are not crimes. So the spectrum of work that we do is very broad.

On the files, specifically, that may have more challenging relationships with RCMP, such as sexual assaults or domestic violence, certainly, we refer those files over to a community-based program. That’s in our mandate to do so. But then we do work together collaboratively to provide the best service as a victim-serving agency with our community partners.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you. Just a follow-up, if the Chair doesn’t mind. I was working with an organization that had embedded at New Westminster and VPD. So I actually wasn’t…. I’m embarrassed that I wasn’t as familiar with you as I should have been. They worked with victims of sex trafficking. So it was just extraordinary work.

How is your funding…? Are you funded directly from MPSSG? Is that a challenge for you? Because we were consistently under-funded by MPSSG and we were having to apply for civil forfeitures grants. Are you in a similar position on, kind of, one-year funding agreements with them?

I. Batey: I’ll respond to that question. The funding model is that our umbrella organization is funded principally by the ministry through the community safety and crime prevention division. We have an annual operating grant. Again, that’s for the umbrella organization.

We also have…. We are a charitable organization, as well, so we have a philanthropic piece. We have a sponsorship piece, as well as, depending on how our programs go, the opportunity to accumulate a little bit of surplus, not as an operating model, but as an outcome, for example, of the work that we do.

[10:10 a.m.]

The funding relationship with our 95 members is that they have a direct contractual and financial relationship with the province. It is the same division that I’ve just outlined. Based on what I would call a formula-driven approach around population, size of police organization, etc., in their particular area, they will receive an operating grant for their particular program.

Frankly, and I’ll be very clear here, there are definitely financial challenges associated with that, because in a lot of cases, in very small communities, the actual funding to that capacity may only provide for a half-time person or whatever. However, the most important part is that in every one of those 95 locations, there is a permanent ongoing service, albeit it might not be full-time.

Those organizations also have significant interactions at the local level. And in many cases…. Anita is a really good example of this. Under the agreement with the province — pardon me being a little bit technical here — there is a clause that allows for local government matching of provincial grants and contributions. So in many cases…. Again, Anita is a perfect example. The regional district also does a top-up of that operating money and, frankly, provides the opportunity for a much more expansive program.

On the grant side, yes, we absolutely do pursue grants, both PVSBC as well as local operating organizations — for grants, for example, from the Department of Justice that actually come through the ministry, as well as civil forfeiture. An example of this is…. PVSBC have just put forward a fairly major application into the civil forfeiture program to develop a specialized Indigenous relations training program for both our direct members as well as our partners, which could also include police, for example.

It’s a multifaceted landscape, MLA Kirkpatrick, if I could use that term, in regards to the flow of funding.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you. I think it’s interesting — the recommendation on police-based victim services actually being in the Police Act and how that might impact your ability to get funding. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, and I’ll pass this to my colleague.

I. Batey: We appreciate your questions.

G. Begg: Thank you, presenters.

A question again to Anita and Ian. In your recommendations, you say: “prioritize police victim services in the Police Act as a specialized proactive service.” What does proactive in this context mean?

I. Batey: Thank you, MLA Begg, for the question.

In looking at the current statute, the way that it’s structured is that all of the functions that are considered to be within the realm of policing…. And even though the Police Act has more of a focus, if you like, on the municipal service delivery side as opposed to the RCMP side, I think it is integrated for any what I’ll call municipal-style service delivery throughout the province.

Our thought is that by embedding the function as well as the occupation of police-based victim services into the Police Act, similar to the way that other functions such as police officers, special constables…. There’s actually quite a wide range of occupations that are included in the defined terms piece.

We believe that that would eliminate a current — I won’t say a general, but a bit of a situational — process where even with the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, etc., I think it’s fair to say there isn’t necessarily the kind of clarity that we think would be appropriate for police officers to know and recognize the role of police-based victim services but also the rights of victims as well.

[10:15 a.m.]

It’s interesting to note that the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is actually undergoing a five-year analysis, literally as we speak, and one of the areas of their recommendations is to make that particular legislation, shall I say, more fortified in relationship to specifying what those rights and roles are.

We think that this is an opportunity to increase the consistency of services across the sector and also to ensure that the responsibility around assignment and recognition of rights is encoded, if you like, in the legislation.

G. Begg: So proactive, in this case, then, doesn’t mean, to you, activity? It means a classification?

I. Batey: Good question. I believe it is both, frankly. We believe that ensuring the inclusion of these three pieces — the service, the occupation and also victims — within the Police Act will eliminate any confusion or redundancy in regards to that connection.

In terms of the proactive piece, our members are ex­tremely proactive at the local level in terms of the service that they provide, who they engage with and all of those pieces that Anita has talked to. We think that by having this inclusion, it will elevate the role and responsibility of the service and that that elevation itself will, frankly, increase the proactive nature of that service delivery.

However, I want to be really clear. I’m not suggesting that our members are not proactive in the work that they’re doing operationally. This is an observation systemwide.

G. Begg: The wording, obviously, is very important, and I invite you to expand on that further, perhaps after this meeting, or perhaps I’ll get in touch with you so that the clarity is there. Thank you for your answer.

One question for Angela Marie. Thanks for your presentation as well. You said at one point that police are not following policy and there are hundreds of examples of that. You sort of lost me there for a bit. I know what not following policy means, but could you give me a couple of examples that you think demonstrate clearly the inability of the police to follow policy?

A. MacDougall: Absolutely, yes. I think the main ways are that there is policy that guides the way police are to conduct investigations. The wording is well established. The municipal police have versions of it. The RCMP has their own. Police are trained — I believe they’re still trained — with that in mind.

It’s a step-by-step process about how they will interview a victim, interview the parties, what the practices are with respect to interviewing neighbours and how they are to assess at the scene what the circumstances are. Then there is a piece there around defining who is the primary aggressor, and that’s spelled out fairly clearly. Then there is how they will prepare that package to bring to Crown. There’s a piece there as well about providing a victim with what would be the community-based organization or support services, to ensure that that happens.

What we find is that in a number of places along the way on that pathway, that kind of flow chart, police are not following their own policies, in part around assigning primary aggressor, as an example, and about interviewing neighbours and other potential witnesses. What we’re seeing, unfortunately, in a way that’s very problematic, is that there is an emphasis put on the victim. If it’s a woman, then she is the witness — too often, the only witness — that the police will talk to.

That, we think, has to do, maybe, with the ways in which different patrol officers organize their work. We think it’s a systemic problem that we are definitely seeing here in Vancouver but also, and especially, in other region of British Columbia, particularly in some of the smaller commun­ities.

[10:20 a.m.]

I know that we have, as has been named here, the integrated case assessment teams that have been decided around assigning and determining those that are most high risk. I want everyone to know that Battered Women’s Support Service was part of the creation of those teams. We started with the first version of that, which was a coordinating committee going back to the ’80s and ’90s.

There are a number of different ways in which police are not following their policies. It’s compounded, unfortunately, by what we’re seeing right now with the Jordan decision, which I’m sure that the committee is aware of. It’s a time limit decision.

What we’re having right now is that police are taking a long time to conduct their investigation. Women are not getting supports offered to them through that process. Even with the abundance of evidence, we’re not seeing charges forwarded to Crown counsel.

We’ve assessed this. We’ve done a number of surveys within the province with front-line workers. We’re preparing a document to outline all of that. It’s a bit of a dire situation right now.

We actually have some of the most progressive laws and policies, here in British Columbia, in the world, guiding these kinds of gender-based crimes. At the end of the day, it comes down to individual officers and the individual units and the extent to which they’re following through on that.

G. Begg: There is provincial policy, as you say, in the Attorney General’s ministry, in relation, particularly, to spousal violence. You are saying, clearly, that the police don’t follow the policy on occasion, I presume.

What happens if someone complains about a shoddy investigation or an investigation that didn’t follow what you know to be the provincial guidelines for the investigation of spousal violence?

A. MacDougall: I’m really glad you asked that question. I know that we’re one of the few organizations in the province that does file police complaints on this matter.

I know that so many organizations may not feel really empowered, even. There’s a lot of pressure to work with the police and to find ways of working with the police. So complaining about a police response is something that is a difficult thing for many organizations and individuals within the province to do.

What we know is that it’s not sometimes — it’s routinely — that police aren’t following the policies. It’s routinely that there needs to be follow-up. This is what we hope that this committee will work to assess in finding ways where front-line community-based victim service workers can respond anonymously based on their experiences.

There’s a lot of pressure to work with the police and to not complain about the police and to not draw attention to police matters. It is a very persistent problem. I say hundreds because that’s just our organization’s experience. We do file the complaints, and the result is that we then get a result. We see that the investigation proceeds in a better way, or we have an answer to why the police didn’t follow their policies.

That’s a lot of work for us to do. It takes us away from the other work that we have to do. We have to find a way to do that in addition. So that’s concerning to us.

G. Begg: Absolutely. It’s important for this committee to know, though, that the complaint process, albeit slow and cumbersome and probably needlessly wordy…. At least, there is some result at the end of the day.

A. MacDougall: On an individual basis, not systemically.

D. Routley (Chair): Okay, Members. We have four more questions to be asked and, I think, only about six or seven minutes.

I’ll go to MLA Glumac.

R. Glumac: I have three questions. One of them was asked by Garry.

Just to follow up on that, you mentioned that you conducted some surveys. Will that be submitted to this process?

A. MacDougall: Happy to submit that, yes.

R. Glumac: I’ll try to keep my questions really quick.

Andrea and Angela, you both mentioned…. One of your recommendations is that police no longer use guns. You listed a number of recommendations. I didn’t see any submitted. I’m assuming those will be submitted.

[10:25 a.m.]

I’m just curious. Do any of them touch upon trauma-informed training? Do you have any feedback on…? Do you think there is adequate trauma-informed training for police?

A. MacDougall: Would you like to take that, Andrea?

A. Glickman: I was going to say that I’d like to hear from Angela first on this one.

A. MacDougall: This is a tricky one. I do appreciate the question. It’s tricky because…. As an organization, we advocated for a trauma-informed practice back in the ’90s — one of a few organizations that brought these theories to victim service work and to [audio interrupted] balance work and other work within the province.

As happens sometimes when we have a really good idea, when it reaches some parts of the system, it loses some of its really key and vital underpinnings. So in some ways we have trauma-informed analysis that is really lost. It becomes a bit of a throwaway line, in effect.

It’s a difficult thing, I think, for police to do trauma-informed practice, because sometimes — what we see in the examples that I’ve provided — their intervention becomes a source of trauma for victims. And then us as community-based victim service workers end up having to support women with their experiences to the extent to which police aren’t following their own policies or they’ve made comments that have been inappropriate.

Also, the presence of their size and the kind of energy, which I know has got nothing to do with…. Well, it’s part of a thing, but it’s not a thing we can kind of change when they appear in a domestic violence circumstance.

We have mixed feelings about trauma-informed practice right now and how that can be applied with police. I know that this is becoming a policy — or at least a de facto policy. We do think that the broader question is to look at this, and I really hope that there’s an interest in hearing from community-based victim service workers on their experiences across the province, in an anonymous way.

R. Glumac: Just very quickly, my last question, then, is on…. Just to reiterate, you feel strongly that this process should have an anonymous component in order to get that feedback.

A. MacDougall: Holding the gender and race analysis is very difficult to do when we’re talking about these things. It’s difficult for us, I think, in Canada to have these conversations and to think that maybe police are acting in a way that wouldn’t be appropriate.

I know that some of my colleagues across the province, in smaller towns where they’re sitting on the ICAT committee…. There are lots of challenges. They’re seeing their local police officer in the grocery store or…. It’s a difficult thing, I think, for many front-line workers and organizations to be able to speak honestly about what their experiences are and that because our contracts are tied to working with police. There’s a lot of risk, I think, for groups to be able to speak honestly about what that experience is like.

A. Glickman: I was just going to also speak to the question about the trauma-informed training, which is to say that I think that that could be a part of training, for sure. I think that’s interesting. The challenge…. I referenced in our presentation that cultural competency training is not enough, and I would say the same thing with trauma-informed training.

I mean, I think it’s really critical, but the challenge is: how is that training framed within the entire spectrum of training that the police are receiving? Are they taking a trauma-informed course after they’ve already gone through the regular police training? What kind of an emphasis is being placed on it? Is it being used as a framing piece in terms of how the whole police are going to approach engagement with victims and with families and communities, or is it more of an afterthought?

[10:30 a.m.]

I think, for us, it would really depend on the context in which it’s used. Certainly, trauma-informed practice is a critical component, but there’s always the risk that it’s not given the centring that it needs. So I would say it would need to be part of a larger discussion on revising the training.

D. Davies (Deputy Chair): Thank you, everybody, for all the services you provide to everyone. It’s appreciated.

MLA Begg did kind of cover some of my questions, and Angela, I know, answered some of it.

I noticed, though…. I don’t think I missed this here. Andrea, you also mentioned in your presentation that women are being overpoliced. I’m just wondering if that kind of ties in with what Angela was saying about police using the policies that are for women and children kind of against.

Is that your take? Is that what you were referring to, as well, or is it different?

A. Glickman: I’m sorry. You broke up there for a sec. Would you be able to repeat that?

D. Davies (Deputy Chair): Sorry. You had mentioned in your statement that women and children are being overpoliced. I know Angela had also mentioned that policies that are for women and children are kind of being turned and used against. Is that the same connection there? Or were you referring to something different with women and children being overpoliced?

A. Glickman: I was referring to something different. I’m sure there could be some overlap, but I was specifically referring to women being overpoliced in the Downtown Eastside. That’s a simple matter of having a larger police presence in that area that’s not necessarily deployed in a way that is supportive for women.

For example, just by being a woman in the Downtown Eastside, you’re more likely to…. Right now, I’m here in Roberts Creek, on the Sunshine Coast. If I jaywalk, I’m not going to get any problems, right? However, if I’m a woman in the Downtown Eastside and I jaywalk, I do run the risk of having an interaction with the police, just because of my location. That can lead to all different kinds of questions.

So for women that are involved in sex work, for example, or have outstanding charges, to be overpoliced and have a police interaction that then brings up other risks for them is a big challenge for us. For example, in order to avoid those sorts of interactions with police that could limit how the day plays out, sex workers might end up needing to enter into riskier situations in order to carry out their business, essentially. That’s what I’m talking about in terms of overpolicing of women.

D. Davies (Deputy Chair): Great, thanks. I’ll pass it along to my other colleagues.

A. Olsen: Recognizing the time and recognizing that we are now pushing strongly up against the clock, I just want to invite both Angela and Andrea to provide the recommendations that they gave.

I want to acknowledge the very thoughtful, as challenging as they may seem, recommendations that come with a lot of work and a lot of background in them. I was trying to keep notes as they were being listed off, the recommendations. I think it’s important we are able to have them in front of us and submitted so that they can form an important part of the discussion that we’re going to have in our deliberation stage, going forward.

Rather than go into them in detail now, because of the time, I just wanted to make sure that it was on the record that the invitation was there to submit them in writing so that we can have a good discussion about them as we go forward here.

HÍSWḴE. Thank you.

D. Routley (Chair): Members, the time we go over now will be taken out of our deliberation time at the end of the meeting. So we’ll have to arrange other time for that. But I think we’re comfortable with time as we stand now.

We’ve got two more people on the speaker’s list. First, MLA Sandhu.

H. Sandhu: Thank you to all the presenters for well-laid-out presentations. I had three questions, but a couple were somewhat answered. One was from Angela about the survey, that you can submit that.

[10:35 a.m.]

The other question and comment for Andrea and Ian, the police victim services. I know these are amazing services, and I know some victims who benefitted from these. They felt very safe, having that connection with service providers there.

It may be unrealistic, but what are your thoughts about reconsidering existing locations, like PVS office locations? There might be many women who are perhaps reluctant to come to the police or RCMP station to seek services, given the history of systemic discrimination or, perhaps, their previous experiences, especially among Indigenous women, women of colour or transgender persons. I believe this will help us to equally serve every victim, and these services are great. I think everybody should benefit from these equally. Just a thought, as I was listening to the presentation, to close the gaps.

A. Eilander: I could speak to that for a moment, if that’s okay. That’s one of the recommendations, and why we wanted to put it to all of you: to have victim services added to the Police Act.

Police are oftentimes the first point of contact for a victim of crime, and then we are, in turn, after that. We believe that adding victim services to the Police Act elevates the relationship, solidifies the relationship and assists in making referrals to victim services be mandatory and not a suggestion, or sometimes done and sometimes not done. Our role, as a police-based organization, is then to refer files out from there to the appropriate agency.

We’re all very aware that victims are not shown equal treatment as accused persons and are, at best, seen as observers or witnesses in a criminal justice proceeding. There is so much onus put on a victim to know what their rights are, to understand what they are and to assert their rights. Meanwhile, accused persons enjoy the opposite approach.

If nobody is aware that a victimized person exists, they don’t start to receive service. That’s one of the reasons why we are recommending that we be at least added to the Police Act. That may assist in solidifying that we are essential and that access to victim services supports whoever, in the end, ends up supporting that victim. It at least happens. Too many people fall through the cracks, unfortunately.

H. Sandhu: Thank you, Anita. There is no doubt. Un­doubtedly, these are crucial services. That’s why I wanted to raise this point. I appreciate the work you do.

A. Glickman: Did you ask for my answer too? I think you said “Andrea,” but you might have meant Anita. I don’t know if you were wanting to hear from me. I can comment on it as well.

H. Sandhu: I said “Anita.” I think the first question was for Andrea and Angela. Then I thought they were answered already. I did not want to take too much time, and then I directed my question to Anita. Sorry for the confusion.

A. Glickman: Okay, sure. I just wanted to quickly note that in a women’s safety audit in the Downtown Eastside, which we cite in Red Women Rising, only 15 percent of the women that we spoke with were comfortable going to the police.

I wanted to support my colleague Angela’s recommendation and comments in the chat box, which is that even though we appreciate the recommendation, we would be concerned about police-based being the conduit for community-based services. One of our recommendations in Red Women Rising, which will be part of our submission, is a call for funding more Indigenous-centred and community-based, rather than police-based, victim service programs, to provide more holistic support, including a connection to land-based healing and guidance from Elders.

I think there is a lot of work to be done on the relationship between police and communities, especially communities of colour and communities of lower income. Maybe at some point, there will be an opportunity where police are seen, as that relationship is healed…. I think a lot of the calls for justice speak to the need to work on that relationship.

I think that in terms of meeting victims where they’re at, it would be good to consider a community-based approach to making sure victims feel safe. Quite often victims of violence have already had negative interactions with the police at some point in their lives, in domestic violence. Or there are ramifications from going to the police right away, for a lot of specific reasons.

That is one of our recommendations, respectfully bringing it forward.

[10:40 a.m.]

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you.

R. Singh: I will be very quick. I know we don’t have much time left.

I would really like to thank all the presenters. Angela and Andrea, I really want to thank you for bringing the intersectional lens and the barriers that women are facing, especially women of colour, Indigenous and Black women.

Just going on your point, Andrea. You were talking about more enhanced specialized victim services and more support. How do you think that will work? We know that whenever there’s a scene of crime, a domestic violence situation or a sexual violence situation, the first person that…. They’re easily accessible. People tend to call 911.

What do you see happening? Do you want police to be supported with the community support services, specialized services, like what we have heard for mental health issues as well? Is this a way to go forward?

A. Glickman: Thanks for the question. Yeah. I do think it’s a way to go forward. I mean, I can’t say that I have all the answers here. The work that we’ve brought forward is based on the direction of the women that use the women’s centre, specifically the Indigenous women population.

Yeah. I think it would be a transition period. I can say that, for the victim services support that DEWC offers, we just simply don’t have funding to have multiple positions carrying out that role. So I know, and from other work that I’ve done in the Downtown Eastside, we’re referring people to Battered Women’s Support Services all the time. There’s simply not enough funding for community-based victim support services right now. That’s a really good place to start.

I mean, one advantage, again, of doing things in a community-based way is that you’re going to get immediate buy-in because people already are familiar with and trust the organizations. The level of trust that the women that use DEWC, for example, have with the organization — because it’s been there for so long and because it has always, of course, uncompromisingly stood up for the women that use the centre — means that they’re going to feel safer going to that place right away for support. That’s why I think that it would be an ideal system to transition into.

I’m sure Angela might have specific comments on that as well.

A. MacDougall: Perfect. Excellent, thank you. It’s all good.

R. Singh: Thank you.

D. Routley (Chair): Thanks very much. I don’t have anyone else on the speakers list. I really appreciate the contribution that everyone has made. The committee has benefited. A lot of great questions.

I would invite any of the presenters to contribute any further information that they think we should have, like the recommendations and anything else that crosses your mind that you think would be relevant to our committee. We hope that you’ll be available should members have further questions.

With that, I’ll thank you all for presenting to the special committee. Good bye.

I. Batey: Our thanks. We appreciate it. Stay safe, everybody.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you.

If everybody’s okay with just going straight through and skipping the break…. We had a five-minute break worked in about ten minutes ago.

Let’s take two minutes, then.

The committee recessed from 10:43 a.m. to 10:47 a.m.

[D. Routley in the chair.]

D. Routley (Chair): Welcome back, everyone, to this meeting of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act. We’ve got a couple more guests and a subsequent panel.

I’ll first ask the members of the committee to introduce themselves, beginning with MLA Kirkpatrick.

K. Kirkpatrick: Hello, everyone. I’m Karin Kirkpatrick, and I’m the MLA for West Vancouver–Capilano. Thank you so much for being here.

A. Olsen: Good morning. Adam Olsen, the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.

R. Glumac: MLA Rick Glumac from Port Moody–​Coquitlam.

D. Davies (Deputy Chair): Hi. Dan Davies, the MLA for Peace River North.

R. Singh: Hello. Rachna Singh, the MLA for Surrey–​Green Timbers.

T. Halford: Hi. Trevor Halford, the MLA for Surrey–​White Rock.

G. Begg: Garry Begg, the MLA for Surrey-Guildford.

Very good to see you, Tracy, always.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you very much. With that, I think we’ll get underway. We have 15 minutes for each presenter. We hope that that will be sufficient. Then we’ll have time for questions afterwards from members of the committee.

I’ll first introduce the panelists. We have Tracy Porteous of Ending Violence Association of B.C., the executive director there — hi, Tracy; and Amy FitzGerald, who’s the executive director at B.C. Society of Transition Houses. Hello, Amy.

With that, I guess we’ll get right underway.

Amy, are you ready to go first?

[10:50 a.m.]


A. FitzGerald: I am happy to start.

Good morning. Thank you for this opportunity to testify to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act. According to your terms of reference, I will speak to the modernization and sustainability of policing and the role of police with respect to complex social issues, systemic racism and the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I am Amy FitzGerald, the executive director for the B.C. Society of Transition Houses. I would like to acknowledge that the B.C. Society of Transition Houses office is in Vancouver on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people, shared by the Squamish, Musqueam and Tseil-Waututh Nations, whose history is tied to this unceded ancestral land. We are very grateful to be here.

The B.C. Society of Transition Houses was founded in 1978 with six members and is a growing, member-based provincial umbrella organization with 117 member programs now. The society’s mandate is, through leadership, support and collaboration, to enhance the continuum of services and strategies to respond to, prevent and end violence against all women, children and youth in British Columbia.

Our mission and mandate is to train, support and advo­cate for the women’s transition housing and supports program, which consists of transition houses, second-stage houses and safe homes, along with the PEACE program, which is focused on specialized supports and services for children and youth who have witnessed or experienced family violence. The PEACE program, for some who’ve been around, was previously named the Children Who Witness Abuse program.

There is also a violence is preventable program which the PEACE programs run in schools, which is a school-based prevention and intervention program run by the PEACE programs and the PEACE program counsellors that we train, support and advocate on behalf of.

Our 117 members operate in over 80 communities, providing emergency safe shelter, housing and support services to women, children and youth experiencing violence or at risk of violence. There are 86 PEACE programs with 155 PEACE program counsellors and 46 violence is preventable programs in B.C., and many of them are in your communities.

Our members are in seven regions of B.C. — northern B.C., the Cariboo, the Okanagan, the Kootenays, the Fraser Valley, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Of the 66 transition houses, they provide access to safe shelter and support services and are staffed 24 hours a day.

Their jobs are multidimensional. They provide crisis intervention, emotional support, safety planning — which includes technology safety planning — counselling and assistance with court paperwork, criminal justice matters, court accompaniment, interactions with police and MCFD, along with housing supports, legal supports, transportation, employment and education supports and referrals. Most importantly, the transition houses provide time and space for women, children and youth to be safe and heal.

Currently our members report increasing numbers of women, children and youth coming into shelter with complex needs, including mental wellness and substance use needs, and also complementing family court matters and criminal court matters.

The safe homes provide access to support services in rural and remote communities across British Columbia, and there are 25 safe homes in British Columbia. They are often hotels, motels or apartment rentals or sometimes even in private homes. They provide emergency needs, emergency shelter, and often their work is to connect women, then, with outreach services and transportation to a transition house for more elaborate services. There are 18 second-stage housing units in British Columbia providing safe, affordable, more independent housing with support services for longer periods of time to assist women to move on to independent living.

This continuum of housing and supports is critical to keeping women and their children safe, as the affordable housing crisis in British Columbia is undermining their safety.

[10:55 a.m.]

In British Columbia, only 4 percent of women are able to leave a transition house or a safe home for an affordable home. Twenty-five percent find housing beyond their means, and 71 percent are temporarily housed or return to the abuser. After women leave second-stage housing, interestingly, 30 percent of them find long-term safe and affordable housing. The reason why I provide this information is because I think it’s an important backdrop for the important work that you’re engaged in today.

The society approaches anti-violence work from an intersectional feminist framework, incorporating a critical lens to the systems of power and oppression. As a provincial umbrella organization, our mandate is to amplify the concerns and voices of the front-line membership.

Regarding our recommendations today, I would like to acknowledge the ongoing reality of gender-based violence in British Columbia and Canada and the daily consequences that our members across British Columbia face.

Annually BCSTH conducts a 24-​hour census. The 24-hour census in 2020, which predated COVID, demonstrates the existing demand for these services before COVID-19. In a 24-hour period in November of 2020, over 1,239 women, children and youth were served by our members in 24 hours. They fielded 1,129 service-related calls, texts and emails. There were 590 people who were not able to be served, and 894 children and youth were on PEACE program wait-lists.

Every year in British Columbia, more than 12,000 women and children access transition houses, second-stage housing and safe homes to escape violence or abuse. Three to five children in every Canadian school classroom are exposed to domestic violence.

Domestic violence is one of main causes of homelessness for Canadian women and children. Stats Canada has recognized that intimate partner violence accounts for one-third of all incidents of violent crime reported to police in 2018. Police-reported data in 2018 shows that women were the vast majority of those who experienced this form of violence, accounting for 79 percent of the survivors, and that intimate partner violence most often occurred at private residences. Police-reported data shows that among people who experienced intimate partner violence, half did so in a home they shared with the accused and a third in a home not shared with the accused.

Indigenous women and girls make up only 4 percent of the female population in Canada, but they are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than any other women in Canada. They are three times more likely to report spousal abuse than non-Indigenous women. The government of Canada, through Stats Canada, is working to increase its knowledge about this form of violence.

Police-reported data shows that women are overrepresented among those who experience intimate partner violence. Oftentimes, those who experience intimate partner violence do not report it to the police for a variety of reasons, including a fear of stigma and shame, a belief that the abuse is a private matter, a fear of court system intervention or lack of trust in the criminal justice system.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, rates of domestic violence have spiked globally. Signs of impact here in British Columbia and Canada include evidence reported by violence-against-women shelters, which reflect increasing calls, increase in severity of violence or eerily quiet times. Previously, most women would contact shelters over the phone, often when their abuser was at work or out of the house for other reasons. With COVID-19 restrictions, the abuser and women have fewer opportunities to leave the house and fewer opportunities to call for shelter and safety.

B.C. police forces are also indicating an increase in domestic calls. Views to ShelterSafe Canada, which is an online resource to help women and their children seeking safety, doubled in March 2020, compared to 2019, and tripled in April 2020, compared to 2019. According to Stats Canada, one in ten women are very concerned or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in their home.

My recommendations to the reform of the Police Act are informed partly by the experiences of my members and the women, children and youth they support, but also my background as an advocate in the legal system.

[11:00 a.m.]

I am a practising lawyer from the United States. I am not a member of the Law Society here, but I was a public interest lawyer for over 20 years in Vermont, New York City and Washington, D.C., and I served as a domestic violence assistant attorney general, investigating unsolved homicides as well as a legal services lawyer and a public defender in Vermont. I have provided criminal defence to indigent defendants. I’ve represented victims in civil and criminal matters. I was also the founding chair of Vermont’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission and served on the Child Fatality Review Team.

I bring that criminal justice lens to the work that I do, but now I find myself, in great fortune, to be working in a wonderful non-profit organization that is supporting the front-line needs of women, children and youth fleeing violence. My testimony today will be informed by that society’s intersectional feminist framework, incorporating a critical lens, again, to the systems of power and oppression.

Violence against women crimes in British Columbia constitute roughly 25 to 30 percent of all crimes investigated in British Columbia. Given the fact that one-third of law enforcement’s efforts are focused on these specific crimes, resources and focus need to be commensurate with that sheer number. In the same way that there’s a focused law enforcement effort to address public safety concerns regarding gangs and guns, there should be a gender-based violence public safety initiative as part of the Police Act reform.

In preparing this submission, the B.C. Society of Transition Houses engaged with our member organizations as part of community engagement sessions that we are conducting related to the ten-year national action plan to end gender-based violence being drafted by the federal government. The Minister for Women and Gender Equality launched community consultations on the national action plan, and police play an important role in that plan. These provincewide discussions guided these submissions.

We learned, through those community engagements, from our members that in B.C. law enforcement processes can revictimize women who experience gender-based violence and that police would benefit from mandatory trauma and violence-informed training provided by violence-against-women experts and people with lived experience.

We learned that there is a palpable frustration at the lack of government action stemming from the report on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. There is a recommendation that government agencies, including the provincial levels, enact reconciliation principles — specifically those related to policing, oversight and accountability — on investigations into murdered and missing Indigenous women.

We learned that the needs of policing in rural, remote and northern communities needs specialized supports and units and protocols. Our members called for coordinated regional responses that are trauma- and violence-informed. In rural and remote communities, they noted that police services are often unsustainable, as staff are frequently relocated, leading to perpetual retraining and re-engagement. In order to increase relevant responses from police, stable staffing should be considered and implemented.

We learned that there is a need for capacity and resources to serve and protect Indigenous women and girls and gender-diverse people with specialized Indigenous policing units that are trauma- and violence-informed. The “Calls for Justice” speak to this in their “Calls for police services” section.

We also learned from our members, tragically, that women’s experiences of violence are frequently not believed by police, lawyers and judges and that women in crisis who are victims of gender-based violence can fear engagement with police, especially if they have mental wellness or substance use issues. They fear they will not be believed, their children will be apprehended and they may be arrested themselves. These fears are reflected in the Stats Canada research, as well, across Canada. These fears are exacerbated for Indigenous people and immigrant and refugee women.

We learned that there needs to be accountability and oversight with law enforcement. That will build community trust.

We learned from our members that interactions with law enforcement work well in terms of getting help and safety when there is a coordinated, fully funded community response, including trauma- and violence-informed practice and community-based respectful collaboration.

We learned in many communities in British Columbia that police are currently allies.

[11:05 a.m.]

We learned that when police respond quickly, act professionally, believe women and children and their identified safety concerns and the severity of those safety concerns, and when the perpetrator is held accountable for the initial conduct and the repeat breaches in offences, residents are better served and safer. Trauma- and violence-informed approaches to gender-based violence result in saved lives and public safety.

We learned from our members that being a police officer is a difficult job and that they also are part of the community and need professional development, robust wellness programs and responsive training. They need the ability to sustain themselves, considering the trauma they see on a daily basis.

The final recommendation from our members, with respect to this consultation, was that police be allowed the opportunity and be trained to cause no more harm to victims of gender-based violence. Based on these consultations, the recommendations to the committee will fall under three of the pillars that you’re looking at: the complex social issues, the systemic racism and the UN declaration of Indigenous peoples.

Regarding current complex social issues, we recommend the following: the establishment of specialized units for domestic violence and sexual violence investigations with mandatory trauma- and violence-informed training delivered by gender-based violence experts and people with lived experience. Given the fact that almost one-third of law enforcement’s efforts are focused on these crimes, public safety resources and focus need to be commensurate with that sheer number and need.

We recommend that you consider the establishment of domestic and sexual assault response teams in all regions. They are often called DARTs or SARTs in other jurisdictions. These teams customize their trauma- and violence-informed outreach to victims, provide culturally specific services, increase accessibility of services and expand services to improve investigative and prosecutorial practices. They also enhance multi-jurisdictional responses, working among local, provincial, federal, tribal, military and campus jurisdictions, and they form permanent cross-sector partnerships to ensure that the model is sustained over time.

We also highlight the need for specialized protocols or practices in rural and remote communities that ensure consistency and connection with community to address the inconsistent and constant rotation of law enforcement in rural and remote communities. We would ask that the committee consider the adoption of crisis intervention team programs, which is a community-based approach to improve the outcomes of crisis encounters.

Police serve as first responders to most crises, especially in rural and remote communities, often without the requi­site training. In over 2,700 communities in the United States, the CIT programs create connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with lived experience and their families. Through these community partnerships and intensive training, the CIT improves communication, identifies the needs for those in crisis and ensures officer and community safety.

We also ask that you consider expanding the Car 87 mental health program in all regions. This is a model in Vancouver which teams a Vancouver police constable with a registered nurse or registered psychiatric nurse to provide on-site assessments and intervention for people living with mental wellness issues. We think this would go a long way to allowing local communities to address their local needs.

We would also recommend mandatory training by gender-based-violence experts and women with lived experience for law enforcement on trauma- and violence-informed practice specific to investigating, and interviewing victims of, gender-based-violence crimes, including women, children and youth.

Regarding the systemic racism pillar, we recommend the hiring of police that reflect the communities that they serve and enacting a diverse recruitment process to accomplish this. We recommend mandatory training for police on antiracism by antiracism experts and people with lived experience.

Regarding accountability and oversight, we recommend the creation of civilian advisory committees that are reflective of the communities they serve in each region of British Columbia and that include persons with lived experience on the committees to serve as a community voice and sounding board to build trust through accountability.

[11:10 a.m.]

Finally, a modernized Police Act that is consistent with the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples must implement the relevant sections of the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls report Reclaiming Power and Place.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada’s database of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls reports that over the span of two decades ending in March of 2010, of the 582 cases of documented murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, 28 percent of those cases occurred in British Columbia. Along the Highway of Tears and other northern highways, there are approximately 50 unsolved murders or disappearances of Indigenous women. In 2017, the RCMP acknowledged that there were over 1,200 cases of murdered or missing Indigenous women or girls in Canada. They now make up almost 25 percent of female homicide victims.

The national inquiry’s final report, Reclaiming Power and Place, reveals the persistent and deliberate human Indigenous rights violations and abuses that are the cause behind these staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls. Many of our member programs serve Indigenous women and girls on a daily basis. The report calls for transformative legal and social changes to resolve this crisis. It’s comprised of the truths of more than 2,380 family members, survivors of violence, experts and knowledge-keepers. It delivers 231 calls to justice, directed at governments, institutions and all Canadians.

We would draw your attention to the calls for police services, starting at section 9.1; and the calls for robust and well-funded Indigenous civilian police oversight bodies in all jurisdictions with Indigenous representation, starting at section 5.7; and calls for missing persons legislation, at section 5.8.

In closing, part of the unstated mission and mandate of the B.C. Society of Transition Houses is to work to put ourselves out of a job. It’s to build a world where shelters for women, children and youth fleeing violence are not necessary. This collective work is particularly important as B.C. experiences simultaneously a pandemic, an overdose crisis and an affordable housing crisis, all of which overlap to create even more challenging and dangerous circumstances for the vulnerable populations we support and place increasing demands on law enforcement and the criminal justice system and all social service providers.

Current research on the COVID-19 recovery suggests that it may take up to five years to see the full impacts of the COVID-19 recession on homelessness and poverty. We know that women and their families have been disproportionately impacted, in terms of safety and economically, by COVID-19 job losses and may struggle even further in the coming years.

The B.C. Society of Transition Houses is sincerely grateful that the Legislative Assembly appointed this Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act in December of 2020. Extraordinary things have happened during this pandemic year. It has illustrated loss, tragedy and social inequities, but it has also illustrated compassion, collective strength, generosity and wisdom.

We at the society say that there is strength in solidarity. We truly believe that there is strength in solidarity when we move forward together. It is possible to bring that same sense of urgency and possibility that we brought to the COVID-19 response to this work to address the existing public health and safety emergency of gender-based vio­lence through the reform of the Police Act.

The B.C. Society of Transition Houses and our membership across B.C. welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the B.C. government to achieve this goal, through the modernization and sustainability of policing in British Columbia, that ensures public safety and public trust in all communities for all women, children and youth experiencing violence.

Thank you very much for your consideration. I’m wishing you all well in these challenging times.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you. With that, I think….

Can you hear me now, Tracy?

T. Porteous: Yes, I can.

D. Routley (Chair): Please go ahead. You’ve got 15 minutes. We’d love to ask some questions afterwards.

[11:15 a.m.]


T. Porteous: Thank you so much. I, too, am speaking to you on the unceded and ancestral territory of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and the Squamish peoples.

I’m speaking to you today in my professional capacity as the executive director of the Ending Violence Association of B.C. EVA, as most know us by, is 30 years old. We are a solutions-based provincial body that supports over 300 community-based anti-violence programs and cross-sector initiatives in high-risk, interagency domestic violence teams working to prevent and mitigate the harm that stems from sexual and domestic violence, child abuse and criminal and sexual harassment.

I made a decision not to provide you with a lot of background of what our programs are and the status of gender-based violence in the world because I know that 15 minutes go by quite quickly. But I will say that EVA often works in partnership with police to continuously evaluate and improve police practice in engagements with survivors of gender-based violence.

To strengthen the cross-sector responses, EVA has been running, for 22 years, a provincial program called community coordination for women’s safety. This is a program where we are bringing, on the ground in local communities, all of the responders together to make sure that there are high-risk responses, that there are coordinated protocols, that there’s cross-training, wherever we can provide that, on a case-by-case basis.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that I and my colleagues here at EVA B.C. have built excellent working relationships with numerous police leaders in B.C. and across Canada. That includes the B.C. chiefs of municipal police, the B.C. chiefs of police, RCMP E-division, the Canadian chiefs of police and numerous individual police chiefs, deputy commissioners and leaders of every rank.

I personally have been working in the field for going on 40 years. I don’t do individual casework anymore, but when I did, I had the pleasure of working shoulder to shoulder with many police, working cases and, since then, developing policy and best practices and developing and co-delivering training for police and other responders at various conferences in B.C. and across Canada.

My submission today is going to relate mostly on the topic of sexualized violence. The reason for that is that this an area of public safety that is urgently needing your attention and the attention of all of the decision-makers and legislators, both provincially and federally. It’s an area of public safety that has not seen change for more than 40 years.

I can tell you, in terms of my testimony, that I have seen numerous changes in the area of domestic violence. For example, since the ’80s, when British Columbia built our provincial policy on what’s called VAWIR, violence against women in relationships, we have seen a cascade of legislation, policy, programs, mandatory training for police, and protocols developed to assist women and their families struggling with the results of intimate partner violence.

Part of these policies and mechanisms are holding police and others to account for their response in this area. Now, I have to say, having been on both of B.C.’s domestic violence death review committees, that some of the advancements that we see in the area of domestic violence have been born from tragedy and from people rolling up their sleeves and getting together to say: “What can we do together to make sure that that doesn’t happen again?”

But I’m sad to tell you that the same has not happened in relation to sexual assault, even though there are thousands and thousands of women and girls, two-spirit and gender non-binary people, racialized women, Indigenous women and others who are sexually assaulted in our province every year. I believe — and if you don’t mind, I’m going to speak somewhat directly to you today — that we collectively are guilty and directly responsible for leaving sexual assault victims with almost no protection. That’s from the sexualized violence in the first instance and also from putting almost nothing in place to protect victims from the systemic harms we have known about for more than 40 years.

[11:20 a.m.]

We collectively have been engaging and studying and doing surveys, similar to what Amy described her provincial body does with her members — the 100 counselling programs, the 70 community-based victim assistance programs and the 70 multicultural and outreach programs and the sexual assault centres. We constantly survey our members, constantly have Zoom and conference calls asking them: what’s happening on the ground? What is happening for survivors? What’s happening systemically, and what do we need to do collectively to make our province a better place?

I think that we can no longer stand by and simply hope that our daughters, our nieces, our friends and our co-workers won’t be reinjured by the very systems that we have in place to protect the public.

In addition to the harm being caused to victims of sexual assault in B.C., I believe that we are collectively guilty of seriously failing our police individuals and our police forces, because in the area of sexual assault, we have virtually no policy, no guidelines, no best practices, no mandatory training and no oversight.

My question is…. If we are to expect excellence or even an acceptable level of response from police, we need not ask them to achieve this without providing them with any guidance or training or supports. I think we’re doing a terrible disservice. B.C., as I said, has no policy, no best practices, no specific training in relation to sexual assault.

I was involved in the development of a provincial sexual assault policy that was brought about by the NDP government when they were in power in the 1990s, and for five years, we were sitting at a cross-sectoral table. It was all but finished, and it never got done. Then there was a change in governments, and that policy never saw the light of day, unlike…. We have a domestic violence policy, training, guidelines, best practices, oversight. We have child abuse policy for the child protection system. In both of these areas, we’ve seen better outcomes for victims.

Now, we’re not there yet — like, there, as I say. There’s still so much more to be done, as you’re hearing this morning from others. But I truly hope that this committee will join our call to the province of B.C. to put in place a cross-ministry sexual assault policy and mandatory training to support the responders to know how to work in this highly complex area of trauma.

Sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that is not on the decline. Statistics Canada conservatively reports that only 5 percent of victims report to the police. I would submit to you that that number is actually lower, because when Stats Canada does their census surveys and they call millions of households across the country, the people that answer the phone and respond to Statistics Canada are not likely to be 14- to 24-year-old girls answering on behalf of that household. And 14- to 24-year-old girls are the main and specific largest target demographic of sexual assault, even though people are sexually assaulted at any age across lifespan.

Then we also need to understand that when sexual assault is reported to the police, we see extremely low charging rates and even lower conviction rates. So it was clear to us years ago that the police needed to get better at domestic violence investigations so that at the very beginning, when a victim or a survivor made a report to the police, how they investigate, how they build a case, how they collect evidence and how they draw a victim statement is done in such a way that they are provided with the information they need and they’re not revictimizing that person in the process.

As I said, there have been a lot of gains over a lot of years that stemmed from a lot of tragedy. I would commend the province and all the statutory agencies that have rolled up their sleeves and have pitched in on the area of domestic violence. But in the area of sexual assault, no standards for interviewing, no best practices for the collection of evidence, nothing in respect to the treatment of highly traumatized victims of a very particular kind of crime.

[11:25 a.m.]

Sexualized violence is different than any other crime. There’s no training on the law, which is highly problematic. I’ve seen case after case where public safety officers don’t know what the law is on consent. There’s certainly nobody making sure that they know the new case law that is coming out of the supreme courts — the Supreme Court of Canada and the B.C. Supreme Court.

I’ll say that when I canvass my colleagues across all of the professional response areas — this is a sad statement — I don’t know anyone that would encourage their daughter or their niece to report a sexual assault to the police, should this happen to them. I want you to make no mistake: there are many, many good, well-intentioned police. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, working with and becoming friends with many.

But with a police strength in B.C. of more than 10,000 officers — with no training, no policy, no guidelines, no best practices and no system of oversight — layered on a society that’s populated with rampant unconscious bias and myths about who was raped and why, or that women and girls are not to be trusted and make things up, it’s no wonder that so few sexual assaults are reported.

There is just ongoing harm being implemented — or perpetrated; that’s a strong word — by well-intentioned responders who have not been provided with training about the neurobiology of trauma, who don’t know how this kind of trauma affects memories, who don’t know how to conduct a trauma-informed investigation, who don’t know about the importance of advocates being present in the room when somebody is giving their statement.

Sexual assault, as I’m sure you know, is deeply violating and is wholly humiliating. It is clear to me from the 40 years that I’ve bene doing this work that very few responders truly understand the extent or the nature of these injuries. The World Health Organization classifies sexual violence as a serious global public health and human rights issue with short- and long-term consequences for women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health.

I think it’s important for us to understand — because this is often the police — that the first person a survivor talks to about being sexually assaulted will make the difference in how she responds to this trauma for the rest of her life. We know this to be true because there are many bodies of research that tell us this.

Yet it is commonplace in 2021 that a police officer — because they’re not conscious of their unconscious bias — may imply blame, may imply that they don’t believe the survivor, may express concern for the accused. They might not know the law on consent, they don’t understand these injuries, and they certainly don’t understand the effects of trauma on the brain.

I’ve seen case after case where police who are trying to do the best job they can and trying to conduct a trauma-informed investigation, start asking leading questions about somebody’s past sexual history, not realizing — because they don’t have any training, and there’s no guideline to stop them — that that course of questioning has no place in an investigation where someone’s past sexual history has nothing with the sexual assault. But once it’s in someone’s statement, it then becomes part of the package of evidence that goes to the defence, and then all of a sudden, her past sexual history is what’s put on trial.

I would go so far as to say that it’s unconscionable that we don’t have anything in place. I think this opportunity is presenting us right now with the responsibility, and the opportunity that you have, to try to change how we’re handling this particular crime and how we can better support police to have more confidence and more competence in how they deal with and how they respond to highly traumatized individuals.

By way of an example, I want to share with you something that I have the permission to share with you, from a young woman who was treated so badly by an untrained yet seasoned police officer that I find it inspiring that she has found a way not only to survive but to overcome how she was treated. In fact, she has said to me that the sexual assault was nothing compared to how she was spoken to and how she was treated by police.

[11:30 a.m.]

She had the wherewithal to make a complaint to the Police Complaint Commissioner, and somehow she knew that she shouldn’t be blamed for what had happened and that the things that were said to her by this officer were completely unconscionable.

Among the shocking displays of careless disregard and unconscious bias this head investigator was populated with his unconscious bias. This officer actually said to her…. After she was left in a field, unconscious and naked and alone, on a freezing, dark January night, in the middle of the night, after having been sexually assaulted, her father found her only because her mother figured out how to track her cell phone. She might not have survived, because it was freezing. The temperature was zero that night. One more hour, and she might not have been with us.

This police officer actually said to her the next day that maybe she stayed out in the field because she didn’t want to come back to the party and have to face the walk of shame. This same public safety officer also said to her that he needed to be careful because he didn’t want to impact the reputation of the poor accused.

This young woman, who had been left for dead — had her dad not found her, she might not be with us today — was an international-level athlete and a straight-A student. What of her reputation? What of her well-being?

We are lucky that she is resilient and she is strong. She knew that how she was being treated by this officer was appalling. I sing her praises because she came forward, knowing that this must be happening to other young women and that if she could do something to try to interrupt that, she was going to do everything she could. So she put herself in harm’s way by making a complaint to the Police Complaint Commissioner’s office.

I have to say that they managed this to the best of their abilities. They went as far as they could within the confines of the Police Act and the mandate of the Police Complaint Commissioner. But I do…. My hands go up to them.

I think that it’s not a wonder that a case like this, and thousands more like it, happen, I’m saying, over and over again, because we haven’t provided police with what they need in order to do the job. They need training on unconscious bias and rape myths and how to investigate from a trauma-informed perspective and how to effectively support survivors who are probably at the lowest moment of their life when they call the police.

We cannot leave the safety of women and girls and trans, two-spirit and gender non-binary, survivors up to whoever happens to be in government. We got a lot done because a lot of people rolled up their sleeves, with respect to domestic violence. For some reason, the same has not happened with sexual assault. I’m hoping that you’ll find ways to build into the Police Act, into legislation, measurable and concrete expectations for training, case management, supervisor sign-off and civilian oversight.

I want to speak briefly about training, community support for police, accountability and oversight and systemic change. With respect to training, which is part 2, the act speaks to specialized policing. But I would say that any police officer in this province who might, at any point, come into contact with somebody who has been traumatized by any form of gender-based violence should have training so that they know how to respond and not do any harm.

We should have protocols and training and tools and, as I say, supervisor sign-off. We need to educate responders on how to eliminate their own unconscious bias and stereotypes. We need to educate police on the intersections of gender-based violence and racism and marginalization and colonization. We need to repair and build trust with complainants and communities that are affected by gender-based violence, including, and foremost today, sexual assault.

We need to have everybody in the system of police understand the importance of survivors having support and advocacy services at all stages of reporting and investigations. It still shocks me that I hear stories from our 300 front-line agencies, which have thousands of workers, that police are not letting advocates in the room.

We also need to make sure that there are cross-sectoral collaborative responses to sexual assault, as there are in the area of domestic violence, in communities across our province, so SARTs or sexual assault coordination initia­tives.

[11:35 a.m.]

Sections 4 and 8 of the act speak to the presence of community and the need to consult with community. I think, more than anything, we need to ensure that police understand the importance of community when it comes to all forms of gender-based violence. If only 5 percent of sexual assault survivors report to the police, we don’t need to build a stronger police force to respond to sexual assault. We need to build a police force that’s better informed, that has better understanding of the injuries that this crime produces.

We need police to understand the importance of communities, because community victim assistance programs, which have the primary mandate, from a policy perspective, to be the responders to sexual assault where they exist, are the ones that build bridges. In fact, in 1983, when the Criminal Code changed in relation to sexual assault — it took out the word rape from the Criminal Code and replaced it with sexual assault — there was a beautiful preamble that says to governments across the country to put in place community-based mechanisms to act as a bridge to help survivors report to the system.

From the perspective of accountability, public confidence and trust in the police is imperative. And I think it’s been said by many research projects that it’s at an all-time low. There have been repeated calls for increased independence of police complaints systems, but no significant change has been made. I think a key aspect of accountability flows from sections of the Police Act that address the independent investigations unit and the police complaints commission.

Here are some of our recommendations. With respect to part 7, that the IIO jurisdiction be expanded to include sexual offences committed by police officers — that’s not there yet, and we would like to see the IIO have that jurisdiction. This legislative committee should also consider reforms to the Police Act to ensure that investigations of police misconduct fall within the purview of the IIO. Both the IIO and the Police Complaint Commissioner should employ senior analysts with expertise and training in the area of sexual and domestic violence to review and report on complaints and data and outcomes.

I also think that all the staff interacting with victims and families of the IIO and the police complaint commission office need to have the same training that we’re calling for that the police need to have. Contracted services, like investigators…. Because right now police, their supervisors, superintendents, deputy commissioners, the IIO office…. I would also venture to say that the mediators, the contracted services that people like the Police Complaint Commissioner contract with, need to have this training as well.

We need independent civilian oversight and transparent policies regarding investigation of police misconduct. The act is currently silent on the issue of civilian leadership. I think police misconduct should also include psychological injuries that are caused to a victim by police who are not acting in trauma-informed ways and actually injuring victims based on unconscious bias, not knowing the law, judging and blaming victims. I can tell you, I’ve seen it, and there doesn’t seem to be any consequence whatsoever. I’m not talking about losing their job. I’m talking perhaps about a consequence that requires somebody to have mandatory training.

Community-based support services, who are the appropriately trained advocates, must be appointed at every stage along the way, including to work alongside of the IIO and the police complaint commission office. They’re the ones who victims generally go to. They don’t go to the police. They don’t go to statutory systems because of concerns and historical realities of not being believed and being blamed.

Layer that on survivors who are Indigenous, racialized, who are sex workers, who are trans, two-spirit or disabled, and I can tell you that these victims/survivors are constantly being treated with something other than informed and direct respect.

Enforcement mechanisms for recommendations made pursuant to investigations conducted by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner need to be implemented. Time and time again, it’s my understanding that, similar to the coroner’s office, we see important recommendations that have come from hours and hours and hours of research and investigation that have no teeth. I’d like to see Clayton Pecknold’s office actually have some enforcement mechanisms.

[11:40 a.m.]

I also wanted to speak just very, very briefly about the municipal police boards and committees. I would suggest to you that these police boards and committees need to have sufficient knowledge and training as well. If they are to be responding to complaints that come to them about the conduct or misconduct or the handling or mishandling of a sexual assault file, they need to understand sexual assault trauma.

They need to understand all forms of gender-based violence and the injuries that are produced and the trauma that is created. They need to understand what constitutes a trauma-informed investigation. If those making up police boards in B.C. don’t know about this complex trauma, how do we think that they’re going to be able to assess and respond?

Last year I, firsthand, saw a police board in our province that seemed to be really struggling with knowing what to do, because the complaints that were made to them about a highly injurious case relating to sexual assault were really met with not much sophistication. I don’t say that because I want to be mean. I say that because I think it’s imperative that we get this right.

There are bodies of research that tell us that sexual assault is a repeat phenomenon, that most sex offenders repeat these crimes over and over throughout their life. So when one sexual assault survivor has the courage and the gumption to come forward and report to the police, we have to get it right, because we know that that might be an opportunity to intervene upon maybe dozens or more cases of sexual assault.

There are a few studies in the U.S. that found that 90 percent of convicted sex offenders had committed serial offences throughout their life. So if we are to understand that 90 percent of sex assaults are committed by serial offenders, then we need to see that each time the 5 percent come forward, we have the opportunity to do more than what could be done in just that case. But I think few people understand this.

Section 33 outlines duties of committees. The current language could be expanded to ensure that police boards and committees have duties not only to promote good relations among residents and police but to also have a responsibility around reporting out to the community that they serve, including what they’re finding in terms of the adequacy or inadequacy of the police response. If they’re finding inadequate police response, then let’s do something about it, instead of nothing. For 40 years we’ve pretty much done nothing.

We suggest that this a time to reinvigorate how police boards exercise their duties. One concrete way of starting with that is making sure that they’re accountable to the public that they serve, that they have training and access to resources and experts and a basic understanding of the matters that are coming before them.

Just a couple of words about systemic change — what has been said to you in other sessions and what was said this morning about the problems with systemic racism that needs to be dealt with. What we would just like to leave you with is that many recommendations that were made by the missing and murdered Indigenous women’s commission report to address systemic racism…. There are many, many, numerous relevant and powerful recommendations, and we ask you to pore through that report and bring forward those calls to adopt for policing transformation.

Also, I would ask you to be sure to consult with Indigenous women leaders in B.C., because they’re not always the Chiefs of their First Nation. This is something I’ve heard over and over from Indigenous friends and colleagues — that we need to find better ways of consulting with Indigenous women leaders.

In closing, I just want to say that it is essential for police agencies to have oversight and advisory committees from the community and police boards that have a strong relationship with anti-violence agencies, where they exist, because I think that with these relationships, for the police and for the boards and for the powers that be, whether that be E division or the B.C. chiefs of police…. I think the advocates on the ground have been doing herculean work for decades and decades without very much support.

[11:45 a.m.]

I would say that instead of you perhaps recommending that we increase the police strength in our province…. With respect to gender-based violence, again, these survivors will not benefit by increased police strength. They’ll benefit by increased police confidence and competence. These survivors will benefit by increasing the bridges into police by their community advocates.

I know that I said some things that might have felt a little bit harsh. I speak them with respect and as somebody who has worked very closely with the policing community for almost 40 years. My respect to this committee. The Ending Violence Association of B.C. — our sleeves are rolled up. We’re ready to support you, and we’re ready to support the infrastructure of police to try to make changes and transformations in this province. Thank you so much.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you.

Members, we will forfeit our deliberation time. Since we have about 15 minutes left in the meeting, if members could keep their questions fairly tight, and responders as well.

Clearly, there’s more information and more that we would like to be able to ask beyond the 15 minutes that we have now. I hope the presenters can submit to us any information that you might want to, to augment what you’ve already provided. Also, I’m sure members may have questions for you offline.

In the meantime, let’s open up the questions.

G. Begg: Not a question, just a compliment to both Tracy and to Amy. I particularly know the work that Tracy has done for, she says, 40 years. I’m sure it is at least that long. I think the significance of what you said, the idea of building bridges to support a system that is failing in many areas, is very important. I applaud you both for being so precise and so forward-looking.

A. Olsen: Similar to Garry’s comments, I just want to acknowledge all of the very powerful presenters today, the incredible experience that they’ve brought to this committee and the importance of these words being shared. I’m just dismayed at what is lacking, to be honest with you.

We live, generally, in a pretty good society. But what is so…. What’s making me kind of speechless here is what is lacking — what, I think, has been taken for granted. When we open up the floor for people to make these presentations, what we’re hearing…. The responsibility that we carry now as a group to honour all of those things is tremendous. But it’s only a fraction, I think, of the burden that many people in our society have been carrying for years with them.

I just wanted to acknowledge that and then thank you for that. I’m thankful to be working with this group because I know that we’re taking this seriously. So thank you for this.

I wanted to ask one question for Tracy with respect to services like the Greater Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, as one example — how a service like that fits in to providing, perhaps, the type of care that you’re talking about and the benefit that that might be, not just for the city of Victoria but for communities across the province. Just wanting to hear what your perspective is on that.

T. Porteous: Thank you for your lovely comments, and thank you for a good question. I actually started working there when I was 19 and was there for 13 years before I came over to EVA, so I know them well. The importance of a sexual assault response service cannot be underesti­mated.

[11:50 a.m.]

They lost all of their funding, actually, in 2001. The funding came back online just last year, so even now is funding 23 specialized sexual assault responses. They are essentially community-based victim assistance programs, and they provide everything…. Not all of them because they don’t all have enough money. They all should have enough money to be 24-7.

The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre has a crisis line. They can do accompaniment to hospital if somebody should want to go to the hospital. They have also created the first and only clinic of its kind in Canada in their sexual assault centre, where nurse examiners are working out of that clinic. They provide victim navigation, if you will.

It’s very complicated. Somebody may or may not want to report to the police. They may or may not feel safe staying in their house. They may or may not be able to continue on with university. They may or may not be able to continue on with their job.

Having a community-based, specialized responder that can respond to all of survivors’ needs, whether it be reporting to the police, getting medical attention, helping a young survivor tell her parents what happened, helping somebody talk to their university professor about getting an accommodation at school to put off their exams…. Whatever it is, these services are there to provide practical support, accompaniment and, also, counselling.

In the immediate aftermath of being traumatized with sexual violence, counselling isn’t necessarily the first thing on people’s minds. We also know that the implications, in the medium and long term, from being traumatized in this way…. It can lead to depression. It can lead to people not trusting themselves or the world around them. It can lead to not being able to work. Lots of women and others quit school. It can lead to suicide attempts and panic attacks.

The importance of having a wraparound, highly specialized service in communities across the province…. It’s imperative. We have too few of them. They’re the ones that are generally putting in place a regional or local cross-sector community response. They’re the ones setting up and working with nurse examiners or physicians at hospitals.

Whatever the case may be with respect to the response to sexualized violence, the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre is it. They are a centre of excellence. There’s a similar service in Vancouver called WAVAW and another one in Prince George called the SOS Society. There’s another one in Kamloops.

We’ve just been able to reinvigorate 23 of these services. Considering the mandate letters of Mike Farnworth and Grace Lore, which say that they are to fund sexual assault centres throughout the province, we’re hoping that we’re going to see more of these.

Adam, thank you for the question. I think that is the key to a survivor’s survival.

T. Halford: I don’t need a reply or anything. I just want to say, Tracy, it’s a great ad campaign. I see it everywhere — when I take my kids to a football game, on the radio. I just want to…. I worked, in my previous life, with the Lions closely on it. So I appreciate everything you’re doing.

T. Porteous: Thank you, Trevor.

R. Singh: Thank you so much, Tracy and Amy. I don’t have any questions but just want to thank you for your presentations. You bring really valid points — the gaps, the barriers that are within the system.

You have been advocating for so many years, and counting, Tracy. So thank you so much. This is very important for a committee like us, because we really need to know what the gaps are and how to fill that. Especially, bringing it from the intersectional lens, the GBA+ lens, is very important. Both you and Amy tried to spell out how for our more marginalized communities — more marginalized, oppressed women coming from those communities — the barriers are even more stark for those women.

Thank you so much. Very important for us.

T. Porteous: If I may say…. Thank you for what you’ve said. I just want to underscore what you’ve said.

[11:55 a.m.]

In the work that we’ve done with colleagues that are located more closely to settlement communities and providing services to new Canadians…. The words “sexual assault” don’t even exist in many languages.

Imagine the barriers, where you don’t have people with training, you don’t have a pathway of coming forward, and you don’t even have language for it. We’ve seen this in some of the tragic cases that have taken place in our province, where women are trying to report to the police and speak what’s called “good-enough” English. You can see, by watching some of these statement tapes, that sometimes there’s just no language, so then the police can’t respond appropriately.

Anyways. Thank you for what you’ve said. I couldn’t agree more. The more socially marginalized someone is, the more of a target they are, because offenders assume that they are less likely to report to the police. And they’re right.

R. Singh: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

D. Routley (Chair): It appears we don’t have anybody left on the list. I’d like to thank the presenters and the presenters earlier. Particularly, this last panel has been fascinating. Adam referred to the gravity of the work that we’ve undertaken and the opportunity that it presents. Garry has referred to the bridge-building opportunities we have in order to make a positive difference in the various cultures that we’re engaged with here, including the policing culture, and the importance of bringing people together.

I really appreciate all the presentation, all the experience that you’ve put on the table and particularly, to both of you, the extraordinary service you give to the people of British Columbia — to the women of British Columbia, in particular.

With that, I’ll ask again that you be open to being questioned by the committee again, if we have further inquiry. We remain open to you for any submission you might want to make further on in the process.

In the meantime, I think we’ve come to the end of the meeting. I would entertain a motion to adjourn the committee. That comes from MLA Halford, seconded by MLA Begg.

Motion approved.

The committee adjourned at 11:57 a.m.